Court cases likely over cigarette packs
Mon, 23 Jul 2012 6:06p.m.
By Patrick Gower
The Government is headed for an expensive legal stoush with big tobacco companies set to challenge its plans for plain packaging of cigarettes.
Both cigarette companies and tobacco-producing countries are queuing up to take action, with the taxpayer facing legal bills running into the millions to fight each action.
Tobacco companies say the proposed plain packaging breaches global free trade rules, but Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia says they are only interested in money.
“Clearly their interest is around profit. They don’t care about people’s lives,” says Ms Turia.
Plain packaging will mean there is more room for graphic health warnings on cigarette packages. The warnings currently take up 30 percent of the front of each pack, but that is set to increase to 75 percent.
Government advice shows this will lead to a “reasonably high risk” of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against New Zealand, at a cost of $3 million to $6 million per proceeding.
Australia plans to introduce plain packaging in September, and already faces WTO action from tobacco-producing companies Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ukraine, as well as from tobacco giant Philip Morris.
New Zealand could face similar action, but Ms Turia says to bring it on.
“We’re in New Zealand, and the New Zealand Government maintains its own sovereignty,” she says.
Plain packaging is now in its final stages of public consultation, with Prime Minister John Key supporting the proposals, and will become a reality next year.
Legal action is also set to become a reality, with Philip Morris firing a warning today that the plan was “causing international concern” and is “violating numerous international laws and trade treaties”.
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24/07/2012 9:41:37 a.m.
The Plan wrote:
The may be a few suits that are actually pursued, so figure on about $18m, after that either NZ Govt will lose and repeal plain packaging legislation and the suits will stop, or NZ Govt will win and the complainants will realise they're duck don't hunt and give up.
When a person acts in self interest with out regard for the human cost of their actions it is called psychopathy. When a corporation does it is called free trade.
24/07/2012 8:45:46 a.m.
Isn't it remarkable that so many 'informed' citizens are opposed to our government 'dictating' to us, yet are quite happy for global corporations to do it to our government?
23/07/2012 11:58:13 p.m.
POTCALLINGKETTLEBLACK, unfortunately Turia is a yes sir, no sir person, so she has no power at all though she does talk a lot but there is no fight, lol she is a joke.
Turia tells the Tobacco Company to bring it on, but the taxpayer will be footing the bill and i do not pay my taxes to pay for their adventures.
23/07/2012 11:29:36 p.m.
@Samantha. I sympathise with you. Whether it is smoking, drinking, driving, cycling, swimming etc we are bombarded by shock-horror type messages to force us to stop, slow down, be more careful. After a while it just gets too much, especially when the agencies promoting all this stuff are not the slightest bit interested in our well-being. If they were, they would be there to help when we need it, instead of acting like little hitlers, as exemplified by Paula Bennett and Crusher Collins. Tariana has really missed the boat on this one - smoking is way down the list of problems affecting Maori. Cigarettes don't turn people into criminals, social dysfunction, unemployment etc do that. Tariana should use her power (if she has any) to get those issues addressed, not stop people from having a quiet smoke.
23/07/2012 9:55:41 p.m.
Yes David, business is out to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. But business can be ethical or non- ethical. Cigarette companies are in the latter category. So are booze producers. But they seem to have the politicians under their thumb, sadly.
23/07/2012 9:23:00 p.m.
I switched the news on this afternoon, and saw the end of this story, so had to ask my grandmother if i could use her internet.i just wanna make a comment that when it comes down to it. Your wasting so much effort on this.
Your either saying its a waste of money,bad for your health..etc.
Well i am aware of that,I started when i was 17,i am now 24,i smoke heavily,i smoke more then 20 a day, yet as my doctor would prove,i have perfect health, every time i get a check up, my lungs are great, my breathing perfect! the only bad thing about me is my anger and anxiety's. Which smoking helps with! I Can still run around the block i still work out everyday. i love smoking. there is no freedom of speech here anymore.And i'm so against those smoke free ads.they do nothing but infuriate me and make me smoke more. its just becoming ridiculous the lengths you are going to. but if you wanna put more pretty pictures on the packets which people at my age or younger collect to make a wall photo of,cause its hilarious then go ahead. it won't stop people who enjoy smoking. Now im off to have a cuppa and a smoke with my grandmother who by the way is 86 years old and has smoked since she was 16..proof that if we live happily and smoke a lot we can live till we are old and WISE!!!
23/07/2012 9:22:02 p.m.
if it was such a big issue why not just make it illegal instead of wasting tax payers money. would be a lot faster and get the results. oh wait i forget the government wouldn't make any money that way
23/07/2012 8:25:56 p.m.
Sovereignty? Is that the best response Tariana has to the fact that we will be forking out millions to fight these cases and hundreds of millions more in compensation if we lose?
New Zealand is not going to ignore a WTO dispute ruling because it realises that doing so is likely to be more detrimental in the long term when countries note that we do not respect the trade dispute process. So get your head out of the sand Tariana; if the govt goes ahead with this the taxpayer is going to be forced to foot the legal costs and compensation payments.
23/07/2012 7:41:31 p.m.
Jamie Lennon wrote:
Awesome National, just AWESOME!! More money spent when we DONT HAVE IT, just ban them or leave them be, this inbetween bureaucracy is time and money wasting
23/07/2012 6:53:58 p.m.
Many smokers have attempted to take tobacco manufacturers to court for failure to warn them of the harm from consuming these products.
The industry have boasted after the number of rulings in their favour that: 'the smoker should have known' due to existing health information, (thereby placing full responsibility on the demand side, and taking none themselves).
Note the inconsistency then, in their opposition to an effective method of improving consumer understanding prior to purchase. This industry are just cold-hearted merchants of death who value profit over human welfare.
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