FOURTEEN complaints have been made against a tobacco company, accusing it of an illegal advertising campaign.
The complaints have been made to the Health Ministry, saying the ads have been made under the guise of a public awareness campaign.
British American Tobacco New Zealand has been running an “agree/disagree” campaign against plain packaging, but those complaining say the ads on television, radio and in print, breach the tobacco advertising ban.
The Health Ministry has not agreed however, with its chief legal advisor saying there were “insufficient grounds to support enforcement action at this time”.
The Advertising Standards Authority has also received complaints, all of which had been passed onto the ministry, chief executive Hilary Souter said.
“Whether or not the ad is a tobacco ad is outside our mandate,” she told Fairfax NZ.
The authority also recently threw out five complaints against BAT regarding other parts of its campaign, by those who thought the ads were misleading and confused fact with opinion.
One complainant called it “an attack on the sovereignty of political discourse in New Zealand”.
It was found the company had separated fact from opinion and was within its rights to comment on government policy.
The tobacco industry is facing increased rules and taxes as the Government aims to stamp out smoking by 2025.
BAT has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing plain packaging, with the agree/ disagree campaign focusing on intellectual property infringement.
Its corporate and regulatory affairs head for New Zealand, Susan Jones, said the company complied with all laws regarding tobacco advertising.