Media Release: FIRST Union
Friday April 20, 2012
Cigarette Plain Packaging Could Come Unstuck Under Secret Trade Deal
Plans to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes could come unstuck as a result of New Zealand’s involvement in trade talks – which so far remain in secret.
FIRST Union, a union involved in the TPP Watch campaign, said that the plain packaging of cigarettes was a significant measure in reducing harm caused by smoking, and congratulated Tariana Turia, and Hone Harawira before her, on this move.
But FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid said he feared the move would likely be challenged in the future by the tobacco lobby if New Zealand signs the so-far secretive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
“5,000 people die too early in New Zealand as a result of smoking every year,” he said.
“Many workers represented by FIRST Union are trying to give up smoking. Measures like plain packaging of cigarettes are a proven non financially penalising way of assisting people to give up or not take up smoking. It will be strongly endorsed by New Zealanders as a way to bring this toll down,” he said.
“But under the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a tobacco company can complain that this hurt their profits, and sue New Zealand for compensation.”
This idea is not far fetched, Robert Reid said, and was already happening in other countries.
“Philip Morris, who makes Marlboro cigarettes, is suing the Australian government over plain packaging under another trade agreement with similar provisions to those being pushed by the US for inclusion in the TPPA.”
“There is just too much that New Zealanders don’t know about the TPPA,” Robert Reid said.
“It is astonishing that an agreement that could affect health, medicines, environmental protections, infrastructure, financial controls and so many other areas, is being signed on our behalf – and we’re not even allowed to know what is in it.”
Robert Reid said that the deal was no good for New Zealand, and called on Trade Minister Tim Groser to release the documents in the TPPA negotiations for full public scrutiny.