NZ Government Considers Ban on Cigarette Branding, Despite Potential Legal Action
New Zealand might face lawsuit if it introduces ban on colors and logos on cigarette packs, according to the world’s leading cigarette maker.
The local government has basically agreed to implement a plain packaging bill, following the steps of neighboring Australia, depending on the results of public discussions.
At the same time, Chris Bishop, spokesman for Philip Morris New Zealand, confirmed banning branding on cigarette packages could violate international rights on intellectual property.
The representative of the tobacco giant, which sells Marlboro brand, admitted the company would fight the ban, if it is introduced.
He mentioned that the measure will not influence the smokers’ rates.
“There are no reliable studies to confirm that generic packaging will be effective at preventing people from taking up cigarettes or help them give up smoking,” Bishop added.
“However, there is plenty of evidence proving it will violate intellectual property conventions that New Zealand is bound to.”
The spokesman for Philip Morris also said it is too early to comment on whether the company will file a lawsuit against the Government, since they are only in the discussion stage currently.
In the meantime, Australia has introduced the ban, and is currently sued by four largest tobacco companies for violating international trade and property copyrights.
If tobacco companies win, the Australian government might be forced to pay billions of dollars in damages, and local lawyers are concerned that the same might happen in New Zealand.
Impact on competition
“Our major concern is branding. The color patterns, logos and look of our brands is changed and we believe it is a confiscation of our property,” noted Chris Bishop.
“It is nothing but differentiation between products, which are still legal,” he added.
Nationwide ban on smoking
New Zealand ruling party Tariana Turia is willing to combat smoking and make the country totally smoke-free by 2025. However, Bishop argued that these claims are populist.
“Today 20% of adult population in New Zealanders are smokers, and the year 2025 is only 13 years away. It is simply not realistic for the officials to believe that no one will smoke by that time.
Deborah Coddington, Ex Act MP, stated that prohibiting smoking violates personal freedom and right to smoke.
The displays of tobacco products in all convenience stores will be prohibited across New Zealand from July 23, 2012. Bishop admitted he does not believe it would have much of effect on smoking rates.
“Several countries have already introduced similar measures, and there hasn’t been reported any significant impact on smoking rates.”
Two years ago the Government implemented several tax increases, which resulted in considerable decline in smoking rates.