A tobacco factory in Petone is continuing to give free cigs to its workers, even as health officials investigate the practice. This month, Imperial Tobacco’s commercial boss Brendan Walker declared that free cigarettes were available to staff during their breaks, for “product testing”. Hutt Valley Regional Public Health authorities met the tobacco company last week to discuss the new policy. Today, an Imperial Tobacco spokeswoman argued that “product testing” would remain in place in the meantime.

Earlier this month, Greater Wellington environmental regulation manager Al Cross said they had received four complaints about smells coming from the tobacco smoke.

The factory has raised its tobacco production and reported that the “sickly odor local inhabitants can smell is a result of steam from blending tobacco leaf and water.

After one investigation in April, Imperial Tobacco was fined $1000 for breaching ordinances relating to odor In the other cases it was discovered no breach had occurred.

“There is a big difference to what there used to be, but evidently they’re burning a lot more and they’ve got more business to do,” explained Kevin Lummis from Lummis Joinery.