The Government is being lobbied to bring the tobacco
plain-packaging bill back to Parliament for a final vote, now the
policy has been found to work "almost like a vaccine against
tobacco" in Australia.
The health select committee last year supported the bill but the
Government has delayed bringing it back to the House pending the
outcome of the challenges against the Australian law by the tobacco
But National support partner the Maori Party and lobby group
Action on Smoking on Health (Ash) now say the decline in smoking
seen in Australia since its "standardised" packaging law came into
force in 2013 means New Zealand can dally no longer.
And public health expert Robert Beaglehole, a University of
Auckland emeritus professor, says plain packaging in New Zealand
"must be passed with urgency".
"The Australian evidence
shows standardised packaging of cigarettes has had an immense
impact on smoking and has worked almost like a vaccine against
tobacco use in children and young people."
Standardised packaging involves removing all brand imagery and
colours. The Government-mandated packs in Australia all have the
same drab olive-green background with large pictorial health
warnings that state "SMOKING KILLS". The aim is to make smoking
less attractive, especially among children and teenagers.
Australian survey data shows the prevalence of daily smoking in
those aged 14 or older declined from 15.1 per cent in 2010, before
the new law came into effect, to 12.8 per cent in 2013.
Canberra is defending its law in two cases: before World Trade
Organisation adjudicators in a case brought by tobacco-producing
countries including the Dominican Republic, and at a United Nations
commission's Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case linked to
Hong Kong and tobacco firm Philip Morris Asia.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell rejected the
Government's waiting on the legal challenges. "Waiting for the
World Trade Organisation decision means more people die or are sick
from smoking-related illnesses. We're tired of standing at the
graveside of loved ones who have had their lives cut short from
this highly addictive and poisonous drug."
Last week, Ireland became the second country in the world to
pass a plain-pack law. British MPs are expected to vote within
weeks on introducing the policy to England.
In New Zealand, a UMR survey for Ash last year found 75 per cent
support for plain packs, including 55 per cent among smokers, if
there was evidence they were less attractive than branded packs to
Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said he was
determined the plain-packs bill would become law.
"Our stance remains the same, that it is prudent to await the
World Trade Organisation decision, but as minister I am always
looking for ways to bring down the incidence of smoking."
Tobacco companies oppose the plain-packs bill. "Plain packaging
is failing in Australia," said British American Tobacco's
Australian spokesman, Scott McIntyre.
The firm claimed plain packs had "seen a 32 per cent jump" in
Australian teen smoking, from 3.8 per cent in 2010 to 5 in 2013,
but the Age reported a Government statistician saying it was not
possible to say there had been an increase as the sample size was
too small and the change was not statistically significant.
- NZ Herald