Tobacco manufacturing gives workers free cigarettes

New Zealand’s largest tobacco manufacturer is giving workers free cigarettes to test the products, even as health authorities investigate the practice.

This month, Imperial Tobacco's commercial boss Brendan Walker confirmed free cigarettes were available to staff during breaks, for "product testing".

"The fact of the matter is we're keen to receive the feedback and comments on those particular manufacturing runs," Walker said.

He went on to say “Imperial Tobacco is acting within the laws as employees could choose whether to test products. It's entirely up to an individual whether they see it as a perk or not.”

Hutt Valley Regional Public Health smoke-free officer Kristen Foley met the company last week to discuss the policy.

"Product testing" would remain in place in the meantime confirmed an Imperial Tobacco spokeswoman according to stuff.co.nz

Last week Imperial Tobacco officially completed a $NZ45 million ($A34.80 million) upgrade to its Petone factory which will quadruple its exports to Australia reports The Herald.

More than three billion cigarettes and 700 tonnes of roll-your-own tobacco are manufactured at the plant and exported to Australia each year.

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