British American Tobacco has joined competitor Philip Morris in blasting the government's anti-smoking rules.
Philip Morris yesterday launched a new website in which smokers can moan about government regulations designed to reduce smoking rates.
In a provocative challenge today, BAT, which controls about 75% of New Zealand's tobacco market, called on the government to prove its retail display ban actually works before enforcing other control measures such as plain packaging.
From Monday, shops will not be able to display any tobacco products.
BAT spokesman Nick Booth says the government's tobacco control plan is already comprehensive, with a 40% tax hike over the next four years on top of the retail display ban.
"Public policy would be better served before pushing ahead with untested and unproven plain packaging regulations," he says.
In 2011 the government gathered about $1.14 billion in tobacco tax, $801 million of which was from BAT.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also weighed in on the government's tax hikes during a select committee hearing on Wednesday.
Mr Peters, a smoker, said the tax rises will "thump the pockets" of poor Maori.
How the display ban will work
Retailers will have to comply with strict rules for selling cigarettes from Monday.
According to a Ministry of Health guide to the new rules, "tobacco products can only be exposed when the staff member removes the packet from a cabinet to complete a sale".
"The cabinet needs to be closed immediately once the tobacco product has been removed."
If customers want to know which tobacco products the retailer stocks, they can be provided with a list, but this must not be in general view of customers.
The guide goes so far as to explain how retailers can get around the problem if they are restocking and a customer happens to see a pack of cigarettes.
"To reduce the chances of non-compliance, retailers should consider restocking when the premise is closed or during quiet times.
"If would not be acceptable to leave the restocking process to serve customers or do other tasks, unless the tobacco products are removed from sight and any cabinetry closed."
The display ban also applies to tobacco products sold on the internet.
"Anyone selling tobacco via the internet in New Zealand must not display tobacco products or any other tobacco-related information on the website or any other electronic document or media."
Retailers who flout the law face fines up to $10,000.