Imperial Tobacco hits back at health minister’s ‘ultimate sick joke’ comments

Health minister Tanya Plibersek

Imperial Tobacco, the maker of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, has responded to the health minister’s angry comments yesterday that the company has flouted the government’s impending rules on the plain packaging of what she called “cancer sticks”.

In an interview on Ten’s Breakfast show yesterday, health minister Tanya Plibersek said that Imperial Tobacco was playing “the ultimate sick joke” by introducing new packaging for its Peter Stuyvesant brand that reads ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’.

The new Peter Stuyvesant packaging shows the original branding being ripped away to reveal what the plain packaging of the product will look like.

“Diseased lungs, hearts and arteries are the reality of what is happening on the inside to a smoker,” Plibersek told Breakfast.

However, Imperial Tobacco insists that it has done nothing wrong, since the government’s new rules on the plain packaging of cigarettes do not take effect until 1 December.

The company told Mumbrella that the idea behind the new design – which it says is a limited edition run – was to inform Peter Stuyvesant customers about changes to the packaging of the product that will occur as a result of the new laws.

Imperial Tobacco said in a statement:

“ITA complies with all relevant legislation. We will comply with the plain packaging laws by December 1 and it is important that these upcoming changes be communicated to adult consumers of the Peter Stuyvesant brand.”

“It is also important to inform adult consumers of the Peter Stuyvesant brand that the high quality product inside the pack will remain the same. The limited edition Peter Stuyvesant packaging conveys this information,” a spokesperson said.

Imperial Tobacco did not comment on whether it expected to see a spike in sales as a result of the limited edition run. However, it noted: “There has been a high level of interest in the limited edition Peter Stuyvesant packaging as a result of the media attention to this matter.”

The company added that it did not believe that plain packaging would have an impact on tobacco consumption.

“Tobacco packaging has never been identified as a reason why people choose, or continue, to smoke and so demand for this legal product may remain largely unchanged,” the company said.

“Importantly, in budget papers, the Government does not appear to have reassessed its forecasts for tobacco revenue. Rather, Treasury anticipates that revenue from tobacco will continue to increase over the coming four year period. In short, it does not appear that the Federal Government believes that plain packaging will reduce smoking rates. And neither do we.”



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