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July 18th, 2011:

Banning tobacco displays ‘violates Bill of Rights’

18 July 2011

Three ACT Party MPs say the bill banning the display of tobacco products in shops, which passed in Parliament last week, violates the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

The Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Amendment Bill makes it against the law for shops to display tobacco products and have references to tobacco products in their trading names.

But the ban “violates the basic right to freedom of expression” according to ACT MPs Heather Roy, Sir Roger Douglas and Hilary Calvert who voted against the bill.

Ms Roy says Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act “protects the right to freedom of expression. This bill violates that right. The right to display legal products in a store is basic”.

“Smokers have rights too. We support their rights. We don’t like smoking, but we don’t believe it is for us as MPs to say whether people should smoke or not, much less whether they may display a legal product or not. That our Parliament deems it fit to interfere in people’s personal lives, as it did on Thursday, saddens us,” Ms Roy says.

Sir Roger says it is “another tedious example of nanny-statism and political correctness” and says he is worried that “activists won’t stop till they’ve achieved complete prohibition”.

But Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia believes the bill is the complete opposite and says “it’s a great moment for New Zealand” and it “closes one of the last loopholes the tobacco industry uses to prey on our young people”.

The bill also increases fines for selling tobacco products to under-age persons, with maximum penalty becoming $10,000 compared with a previous $2000 fine.

The powers of Smokefree Enforcement Officers will also be increased, enabling them to impose instant fines of up to $1000 for sales to those under 18 years of age.

The changes come into force in July next year