Stepping up on smoking

Wairarapa list MP Marama Fox says the government has “finally braved up” by introducing a law that strips away all colour and branding from tobacco products.

Ms Fox said the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill had spent some time waiting on the sidelines since her predecessor, Dame Tariana Turia, first introduced it to parliament three years ago.

New Zealand held off on passing the law after watching the Australian government face a legal battle with tobacco firm Philip Morris when they opted for plain packaging.

The Australian government ended up winning the case.

Last Thursday the New Zealand government “stepped up” and passed legislation to standardize tobacco packaging.

The law will prohibit the use of logos and brand imagery, although brand names will be allowed but with restrictions.

Mandatory health warnings will cover at least three-quarters of each packet, which will either be of a bland green or brown.

Ms Fox said smoking related illnesses killed half the people who smoked.

“We really need to do something about it and we’re really pleased it’s finally made it through the house.”

She said tobacco companies currently had 18-months to comply with the new law but she hoped to bring that agenda forward so plain packaging was on the streets before 2017’s election.

The new bill alone however would not be adequate to achieve the government’s target of making Aotearoa smoke free by 2025, she said.

“The statistics tell us if we carry on the trajectory of decrease smoking rates that we have right now it will take us to 2060 before we’ve reached that goal.”

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