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Tobacco prosecution sends strong warning

Ground-breaking tobacco prosecution sends strong warning

Today's successful prosecution for illegally discounting cigarettes is one of the most serious breaches to date of the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990, says the Ministry of Health.

Tobacco manufacturer Imperial Tobacco Limited pleaded guilty to being a party to an offence whereby a Porirua retailer supplied tobacco products at a reduced charge in a promotion at a Cannons Creek store in May this year.

Imperial Tobacco Ltd was fined $5000 plus Court costs in the Porirua District Court. The retailer pleaded guilty to supplying discounted cigarettes for the purposes of its business, and was convicted and ordered to pay court costs.

The case is believed to be the first prosecution under Section 28 (1) of the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990. The offence carries a maximum penalty of $50,000, one of the heaviest penalties under the Act.

Discounting cigarettes contravenes the Act, many of the provisions of which prohibit advertising and the promotion of tobacco products.

Smoke-free officers visiting the Cannons Creek store in May witnessed a promotion involving the sale of certain brands of cigarettes at 50 cents less than the usual retail price.

Thirty-nine packets were sold over a four-hour period at a discounted price.

"Today's prosecution sends a clear and strong message to retailers and tobacco companies that these sorts of breaches of the legislation are taken very seriously by the Ministry," says Director of Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga.

Dr Tukuitonga says this case was particularly disappointing because the promotion happened in a lower-income part of Porirua.

"Lower socio-economic areas are at a higher risk from this type of marketing than other areas. These people suffer disproportionately greater ill-health and early death due to smoking-related diseases than those living in other areas.

"Price is often a factor as to whether people, especially young people and poorer people, take-up smoking."

Each year, 4700 New Zealanders die from tobacco-related illnesses. About one in five of all deaths are attributed to smoking, and approximately 400 others are believed to die from illnesses caused by breathing in second-hand smoke.

One of the key purposes of the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990 is to prohibit the marketing, advertising, and promotion of tobacco products except for limited exceptions. The Ministry of Health enforces the Act by keeping an eye on the market place and taking appropriate action over breaches of legislation.

Dr Tukuitonga says smoke-free officers will continue to investigate suspected breaches of legislation. In particular, suspected breaches of the Act relating to marketing and promotion of tobacco products.


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