Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has slammed a decision by British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) to start selling cut price cigarettes.

The company says the burden of high excise is forcing it to market a cut price product to compete with black market tobacco.

BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre says black market cigarettes retail for between $8 and $10.

The company’s Just Smokes went on the market last week and are retailing for about $12.

Ms Plibersek says she is most worried about the effects on young people.

“We know that smokers are very price sensitive and we know that the most price sensitive smokers are teenagers,” she said.

“Young people who are just starting to smoke are more likely to smoke if cigarettes are cheaper.”

She says she suspects the company’s motives.

“What they’re interested in doing is attracting new smokers and keeping existing smokers, and they’ll do whatever it takes to do that,” she said.

“Every time the Government has introduced something like plain packaging, like graphic health warnings, like increasing excise, they’ve (tobacco companies) said these measures won’t work to reduce smoking rates.

” But they have worked to reduce smoking rates.”

Supply and demand

Mr McIntyre says the issue is a matter of supply and demand.

“Our customers have been down trading to cheaper products or illegal cigarettes, so we’ve been forced to compete,” he said.

“When we launched our campaign to highlight the unintended consequences of plain packaging this time last year, we made it very clear that cheaper cigarettes were coming.

“Not only is the industry being forced to compete against each other, we’re fighting for customers alongside organised crime groups who obviously don’t pay the 70 per cent excise to the Government.”

The Government is planning to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes in December.

The laws specify all cigarette packets are to be the same shape with the same drab colour and print.

Court challenge

British American Tobacco is among a number of tobacco companies to challenge the laws in the High Court.

The companies are arguing the changes will extinguish their trademark, leaving only the names in a generic font as their distinguishing mark.

The hearing has concluded but the bench of the High Court has reserved its decision.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Nicola Roxon is being honoured internationally for her initiative in the fight against tobacco.

Ms Roxon will receive a global champion award tonight at Washington’s Georgetown University for introducing plain packaging legislation in her former role as health minister.

Topics smoking, health, federal government, australia

First posted May 17, 2012 11 21 35

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