Tobacco control campaigners in New Zealand say they are thrilled with their government’s decision to press on with plain packaging for tobacco products.
The country’s prime minister John Key said recently that he expected the Maori Party-devised plain-packaging regime to advance “sooner rather than later” after new advice from officials said the prospects of a legal challenge were diminishing.
Various studies showed that plain packets were “significantly less attractive” to young adults, she said. Packets with standardised colours and fonts also led to less smoking around others, going without cigarettes, or increased thinking about quitting.
Ash director Stephanie Erick said that Australia’s plain-packaging policy had provided “huge benefits”, including a fall in smoking rates and a rise in people wishing to quit, although existing research is inconclusive at best.
New Zealand had been keeping an eye on the outcome of legal challenges against Australia’s plain packaging, one from tobacco firm Philip Morris and another from tobacco-producing countries via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Australia won the case against Philip Morris in December and the WTO challenge is still ongoing, but Mr Key said he received advice late last year that the country’s government was on a “firm footing” to progress plain packaging because several other countries – including the UK and Ireland – had introduced it without being challenge under the WTO.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed on February 4, also allows tobacco control measures, so New Zealand could advance anti-smoking policies without risking a legal challenge.