Tobacco researchers have identified weaknesses in Australia's
plain packaging law that they want eliminated when New
Zealand writes its rules.
The Government is committed to plain packaging but has not
yet revealed the legislation, which Associate Health Minister
Tariana Turia has said she expects to be introduced to
Parliament this year.
Australia's rules last year imposed a standard dull brown
colour and large pictorial health warnings but permitted
brand names, such as Dunhill and Rothmans, and variant names.
Otago University marketing expert Professor Janet Hoek said
this kind of sub-branding using evocative names like
"infinite" could undermine the impact of plain packaging -
the policy's aim was to reduce the appeal of tobacco and
enhance perceptions of the harm it caused.
Allowing variant names was a loophole in the Australian law
that should be rectified in New Zealand's version of plain
Her research group tested cigarette pack images of a
theoretically attractive concocted brand, "Premium rich
midnight red", in an online survey of young adult smokers.
Reactions were compared with those for another made-up brand
called "Red" cigarettes.
They detected no overall differences among survey
participants' perceptions of how harmful each product might
be, nor variations in expected ease of quitting.
But men saw Premium rich midnight red as significantly less
harmful than women did.
"They [regulators] should be very cautious in what kind of
descriptors they allow to be used on packaging," Professor
In separate research, she and her colleagues found that young
people's support for tobacco to be forced into plain
packaging has increased sharply.
Between 2009 and last year, support increased from 47 per
cent to 64 per cent in the annual survey of Year 10 students
by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health).
"The strongest determinant of support was smoking status,"
said Professor Hoek. "Non-smokers showed consistently higher
support for plain packaging, a relationship that intensified
over time. Students whose parents, siblings or friends smoked
showed less support for plain packaging."
Her colleague, Dr Richard Jaine, will present research from
the same data set, showing that support for a smokefree
society increased over the four-year period.
Of the survey participants last year, 71 per cent expressed
support for measures that would reduce the availability of
tobacco products. Most also supported the idea of tobacco not
- by Martin Johnston of the NZ Herald