NZ may face lawsuit over plain package cigarettes

NZ may face lawsuit over plain package cigarettes

A major tobacco company isn't ruling out taking New Zealand to court over planned plain-packaging laws.

The Government's calling for public submissions on its plans to introduce plain pack cigarettes this year.

Imperial Tobacco spokesman Axel Gietz told The Nation programme the law would be taking its intellectual property.

"We can't rule anything out. As I said before, it is our intellectual property. But any kind of lawsuit is always the last resort. Why do you think I'm here now? I'm grateful to contribute to the debate in public."

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, who was also on The Nation programme this morning, spoke to Newshub following a heated exchange with Mr Gietz.

She says lawsuits could hinder the Government's plans to see a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.

"If we have to face court battles with the likes of Imperial Tobacco in this country, then it will hamper our efforts to get there."

Ms Fox says Imperial Tobacco only cares about its profit margin, not the 5000 Kiwis who die of smoking-related illnesses every year.

"They come over here to try and debate whether New Zealand has the right to debate institute legislation that will significantly cut the causes of smoking related illnesses in this country and significantly hurt Imperial Tobacco's profit.

"I'm not going to sit here and listen to Imperial Tobacco who profit billions, not even millions, billions of dollars off the death and the illness of our people...This is not one brand over the other; this is going to have the same effect on all of them," she says.

The same move in Australia has resulted in a legal showdown with big tobacco, which says plain packaging doesn't stop people smoking.