Lobbyists rally against plain packs

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 10/10/2012

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Global big business lobbyists are attacking plans to enforce plain packaging for tobacco, saying they will violate global trade rules.

Submissions on the Heath Ministry's proposal close on Friday, with overseas lobbyists coming to the aid of the New Zealand tobacco industry.

The Institute for Policy Innovation, in Texas, filed a submission on the proposal late last week, arguing that plain packaging would violate World Trade Organisation rules.

Echoing arguments already raised by the industry, the institute said plain packaging would infringe trademarks, harm trade and lead to counterfeit products.

"The proposed plain packaging regulation suggests that New Zealand does not trust companies and consumers to freely exchange information within a legal marketplace, which we would think would be offensive to freedom-loving New Zealanders."

The International Chamber of Commerce, whose members include big tobacco companies, also submitted against the proposal.

The chamber's "business action to stop counterfeiting and piracy" group said the plain packaging violated tobacco companies' intellectual property.

It has filed similar objections to tobacco regulations in Australia and Britain.

Closer to home, the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores registered its opposition.

The association's paying members include British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.

Imperial Tobacco's Peter Glass is the association's vice-chairman, with other board members representing BP Oil, Coca-Cola and Mobil.

Regional Public Health senior tobacco adviser Shane Bradbrook submitted in support of plain packaging and said the international attention was not surprising.

"The tobacco industry through the years has always battled to stop changes in public health. These groups will be paid by the industry."

British American Tobacco New Zealand had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a public campaign opposing plain packaging.

ON ATTACK

Institute for Policy Innovation

The Texas-based conservative thinktank lobbies against big government, digital piracy and healthcare reform. Over the years it has received funding from prominent

Right-wing donors, including the Koch brothers, who are heavily involved in funding everything from climate change scepticism to presidential candidate Mitt Romney's election campaign.

Contributors reportedly include several big-business interests, such as the pharmaceutical industry lobby Pharma, Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute.

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There are no known direct links to the tobacco industry, although it did lobby against tobacco regulations in the United States in 1995.

- The Dominion Post

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