Tobacco giant fights back after ruling
Wed, 22 Aug 2012 12:59p.m.
By Imogen Crispe
A tobacco company is fighting plain packaging with claims the changes would decrease cigarette prices, and increase the trade in counterfeit and black market cigarettes.
Today British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) launched a campaign against a proposal to introduce plain packaging which includes print, online, television and radio advertisements, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Plain packaging has recently been approved in Australia by the Australian High Court, and now the New Zealand Government has released a consultation document on plain packaging.
BATNZ general manager Steve Rush says the company believes that changing the packaging would not decrease smoking in New Zealand.
He says plain packaging would make it easier for the black market to copy the boxes to make counterfeit products, which in turn would bring down cigarette prices.
“The plainer the packet the easier it is to copy," says Mr Rush.
“As illegal trade grows, cigarettes will become more affordable for all New Zealanders.”
Mr Rush says removing the right for tobacco companies to put their branding on cigarettes could also push down prices.
“If we can’t compete with brands, we’ll be forced to compete for price.”
He also worries that plain packaging restrictions would affect trade relationships with other countries.
“If we do not respect international brand rights of other countries, how can we expect them to respect ours?”
BATNZ also claims that restricting packaging for cigarettes could open the way for plain packaging in other industries such as alcohol.
But Action on Smoking and Health director Ben Youdan says BATNZ is just concerned about profits.
“All BATNZ are worried about are their shareholders and the bottom line.”
He says there is evidence to suggest that plain packaging would work to decrease smoking, as studies have shown that young people are less attracted and more put off by plain packaging without any tobacco company branding on it.
“They find them less cool and less likely to want to be seen with them.”
In response to BATNZ’s claims, he points out that when tobacco advertising was banned, tobacco companies did not go out of business and citing black market problems is a common tactic in any product regulation debate.
“All their arguments about unintended consequences are based on no evidence, projections and fear mongering.”
Mr Youdan says people need to remember the harmfulness of cigarettes.
“Tobacco is the drug in New Zealand that kills more people than any others, around 5000 people a year, yet we’re still treating it as a normal consumer product that’s allowed to be branded.
“I think this is a logical step which allows tobacco to be treated like the harmful product it is.”
Another tobacco company Philip Morris launched a similar campaign against plain packaging in New Zealand last month, where they asked smokers to voice their opinions on a website.
In 1990 the advertising of tobacco products was banned in New Zealand and BATNZ general manager Mr Rush says this is the first advertising campaign the company has done in more than 10 years.
So is this advertising legal?
In a statement BATNZ says it “is committed to complying with all tobacco legislation including the laws and regulations around advertising”.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says the Government will be keeping an eye on the actions of BATNZ.
"They can take whatever actions they want, and we'll have a look at what they are promoting to make sure that it doesn't breach any of the various tobacco promotion legislation.”
Rosemary Wallis, a partner at Baldwins Intellectual Property, says she thinks it probably isn't breaching the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 because it doesn't seem to be specifically advertising a tobacco product.
"The question is whether or not they are advertising a tobacco product."
She says it looks like "it's not advertising a product, it's advertising a point of view".
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23/08/2012 9:53:29 a.m.
@ Wiseacre. You still maintain that initial freedom to poison yourself even with plain packaging. It is youth who are attracted by the existing imagery (etc) who are the primary focus of plain packaging.
BAT themselves are on record as claiming 'we don't want children to smoke'. This move will assist that, so what's with their opposition?
You've claimed to be 'informed' but the rest of your post doesn't suggest that. The alcohol voluntary code doesn't render it acceptable. Smoking exacerbates stress. Traffic comparisons - so what? (Tobacco is the topic). And you contradict yourself by talking about consideration for other people, and then claiming smokers cover the costs of ill-health. What non-smokers put inside their bodies is their business... (etc)
This argument assumes people (children included) are not subject to SHS, and that there is no period of tobacco-related suffering with a diagnosis.
Please give real indication of I, I, FT & C by acknowledging the 'occasional whiff' tends to repeat, and accumulate.
23/08/2012 7:52:07 a.m.
The alcohol industry is being allowed to *self-regulate*. When will intelligent, informed, free-thinking & consenting adults be allowed to *self-regulate*?
What I choose to put in my body is my business, no-one else's.
Is it right to smoke in an enclosed area with other people? Of course not - that's where consideration for other people comes in.
I contend that the pollution of our *fresh air* caused by traffic & industry is far more hazardous to our health than the occasional whiff of 2nd-hand smoke.
For some people - especially those on low incomes - smoking can be their one pleasure in an otherwise tough and stressful life.
Many people tend to feel relaxed while and after smoking, as their stress levels tend to go down. Despite the fact that smoking is indeed bad for your health overall, there are some therapeutic benefits from smoking.
Smokers have become the latest socially-acceptable target to demean and disparage, and an easy mark for the Government coffers. Smokers more than cover the costs of their ill-health. Where is the consideration for them?
22/08/2012 10:32:31 p.m.
@ Grant. There's greater example of 'slavery' with the physiological effects of addiction. The initial freedom to choose remains, despite these effects. Similar expressions to the 'thousand cuts' are 'thin end of the wedge', and 'slippery slope'.
These fail to account for the unique nature of tobacco harm, and your cynical stance still pays lip service to pre-death suffering.
An expression: "Real eyes..realise..real lies". It's hardly in tune with reality to trust this industry, if the government are risking all BAT say they are and continue anyway. Why? Because BAT care only for profit.
22/08/2012 9:27:43 p.m.
John is so right. We are getting slavery "by a thousand cuts". All in the name of public safety.Ironically, society is falling apart because people are living too long- clogging up the hospitals, housing and the workforce and the dogooders are too blind to see. Meanwhile the politicians rub their hands in glee as they realise their dreams of total control.
22/08/2012 9:08:00 p.m.
@ David & John. You're both wrong, and can't even collectively appreciate the truth on this.
If people want to smoke, plain packaging does not remove this capacity, but independent of government regulation, consumption does this anyway (note: by 'stealth' it takes away freedom).
If people (incl. children) wish to breathe fresh air, that right takes precedence, because it is natural.
These other products? (ie., the 'slippery slope' argument). Well, these lazy comparisons continue, and pay lip service to tobacco's unique capacity for harm.
Find the Canberra briefing if you really care at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-15/arguments-disproved/4200136.
Your objections have already been dealt with!
Addiction is a direct violation of human freedom. This move is targeted primarily at people who don't understand the physiological implications of that.
22/08/2012 6:39:12 p.m.
@David - you're bang on. Not only will changing cigarette packaging have NO effect on the number of smokers in the country, but it's a direct violation of our freedom as human beings. Cigarettes, Alcohol, Big Macs, Chocolate, Cannabis etc - they all effect people in both positive and negative ways. It is our right as human beings to decide for ourselves which of these we will consume, and which we will not. The government already "bans" certain things - this needs to be turned around, not furthered. How long until you have to pay "fat tax" whenever you buy some chocolate? How long until McDonalds goes bust because our "government" has deemed we are too stupid to regulate our diets? This is EXACTLY what is happening. It is simply being disguised in small steps. Since the abolition of slavery, no government has the power to take away my freedom. That's what they're trying to do now - albeit via stealth.
22/08/2012 5:16:41 p.m.
I hope corporate collusion puts this farcical proposition to bed - if people wish to smoke it is their business. @Jonathan, what business is it of yours to dictate what people choose to do?
22/08/2012 3:41:18 p.m.
Why the hell does this country have to copy things the Australians do, why can't this country think for it self. We have the Maori here and they are special so an Aussie law would not go well with them. (hey thats surposed to be funny not nasty ok).Alcohol will be next with plain packaging. Brands and their logos are international, so if we blank them out then lets import lots of counterfeit stuff because this country and Australia is saying the international law doesn't apply to us. By going by the no brands theory, then lets get rid of Chelsea sugar and just buy homebrand, oops both sugars are bad for us. I understand plain packaging is a sign of uncoolness compared to buying a brand, but if you need/use it you don't care especially if you can get it cheaper. So if the packages are plain are the smokes going to be cheaper to produce, if so and there is a fixed price on them at point of sale, who gets the extra money? Look I may have that wrong but Im just wondering.
22/08/2012 3:14:34 p.m.
Normally i don't like being told what to do by the government but will be very happy to see smoking banned in the next 10 years. They should make the packaging as idiotic and uncool looking as possible to reflect how idiotic and uncool you look smoking. I think a 90% tax on tobacco company profits would be a good idea as well.
22/08/2012 1:25:56 p.m.
Having followed due process re: the plain packaging legislation, Australian officials Roxon & Plibersek efficiently addressed these pseudo-concerns from Canberra last week.
This industry strategy is further evidence the Australian government are on the right track and New Zealand (and other countries) must follow suit.
Sovereign governments capacity to determine their own health policies takes precedence over the interests of global corporations using baseless arguments to dictate to those governments.
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