BRITISH American Tobacco will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a campaign to take on the New Zealand government over its moves towards plain packaging.
The tobacco giant’s New Zealand arm – which represents nearly three-quarters of the country’s tobacco market – announced the launch of an online, print, radio and television campaign in Auckland on Wednesday.
The campaign is in response to a government consultation document proposing to stop tobacco companies using the design and appearance of packaging to promote their products.
British American Tobacco (BAT) New Zealand general manager Steve Rush told reporters that moves toward plain packaging could backfire on the government by diminishing intellectual property rights, making tobacco more affordable through increased price competition and growing the illegal tobacco market.
Mr Rush wouldn’t be drawn on the exact cost of the campaign, because he said it’s not known how long it will run for.
However, he admitted the company will probably be spending “hundreds of thousands” on the campaign.
Mr Rush would not rule out BAT taking legal action to protect its intellectual property if the plain packaging proposal becomes law.
“We will look at all options if we need to protect our valuable intellectual property,” he said.
The company will be making a submission to the government as part of the consultation process and will be looking to engage one-on-one with ministers on the issue.
Another tobacco company, Philip Morris, has also set up a website, urging smokers to make their opinions known to politicians and decision makers.
Prime Minister John Key says plain packaging is not yet “a slam-dunk”.
He says the proposal – led by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia – is “very worthy of consideration” but his party is yet to decide whether to support a law change.
The Australian government’s world-first moves toward plain packaging were last week upheld by the High Court, which ruled against British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco Australia over a case the four took against the laws.
The ruling means all cigarettes and tobacco products will have to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from December.