By Brook Sabin
The biggest tobacco supplier in New Zealand is vowing to fight the Government if they introduce controversial plain cigarette packages.
3 News has obtained documents revealing the dull-green packs may be introduced here next year, and already the battle lines are being drawn.
The Australian government has this week become the first country in the world to pass a law introducing the dull-green packs but they are being sued.
And New Zealand’s biggest supplier says it will take every action necessary to stop the move here.
Tobacco companies are funding these television campaigns in Australia, furious the government there is introducing these plain cigarette packs.
They are dull green, without any manufacturer branding.
But anti-smoking lobbyists say it is nothing to do with being nanny-state. It is about profit.
ASH director Ben Youdan says you cannot advertise cigarettes on television or on sports sponsorship or in magazines
“That's been banned for a long time, so the packaging is the last billboard I suppose for smoking.”
And it is a billboard our Government could be next to stub out.
Cabinet papers obtained by 3 News under the Official Information Act show the government has agreed to "actively consider the introduction of plain packaging here in 2012”.
The Australian government became the first in the world to pass plain packaging legislation this week but they are also being sued.
Professor Jane Kelsey says the big tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco use every legal tool that they can get their hands on to stop tobacco control policies from coming through.
The issue could be a major headache for New Zealand officials trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with America at the APEC summit which started in Honolulu today.
That is because an agreement could give American tobacco companies the power to sue our government for changing their packaging unless a special provision is negotiated.
The largest tobacco supplier in New Zealand, British American Tobacco, would not appear on camera but released a statement saying they will take every step necessary to protect their intellectual property and stop plain packaging being introduced here.