The law is a butt

| March 7, 2018

The New Zealand government has been criticised for going ahead with the prosecution of a tobacco company while acknowledging that the law on which the case is based needs to be updated.

In a press note, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union (NZTU) said that the 1990 legislation, written for chewing tobacco, might inadvertently ban new heat-not-burn products – a matter that was currently before the courts.

Citing a Stuff report, the NZTU quoted the Ministry of Health’s prosecutor as saying that the legislation needed to be brought up to date and that these changes were “in train”.

“The current law is cruel – smokers are taxed into poverty, and then told that alternatives, such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burns, are illegal,” said the NZTU’s executive director Jordan Williams. “The Ministry acknowledges the law is outdated, so why proceed with court action?

“Every e-cigarette retailer and consumer has reason to worry when the Ministry of Health is taking criminal prosecutions while even acknowledging that the law is an arse.

“With the Ministry making this acknowledgement, the only reason the Government has left to not change the law is its addiction to tobacco taxes.”

A New Zealand Herald story reported on here yesterday, said that the court case involved Philip Morris defending two charges over the sale of its HEETS tobacco sticks that are used in its IQOS electronic heated-tobacco device.

If the ministry proved that this product was for oral use, but not smoking, that would make its sale illegal under current New Zealand law.

Health ministry prosecutor Sally Carter was said to have told the Wellington District Court that the issue came down to legal fine print.

“It’s the heat sticks that contain tobacco, and there’s no problem that this product contains tobacco,” she said. “The real problem is whether this product falls within the Smokefree [Environments] Act 1990.

“Significantly, because of the way the Act is structured there are issues whether in fact the product is a smoking issue, and a smoking product.

“The definition of ‘to smoke’ means that the product needs to be ignited.”

Philip Morris was said to be defending the charges, arguing that HEETS comprise a smoking product, even though the tobacco in them is heated, not burned.

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Category: Breaking News, Harm reduction, Litigation, Next-generation products, Regulation

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