Cigarette pack rules have makers fuming

Tobacco companies say they will fight plain packaging rules in New Zealand, arguing non-branded packets could even increase smoking rates in young people.

Cabinet has agreed in principle to introduce plain packaging for all tobacco products in New Zealand, following a similar move in Australia and despite it being challenged in court there.

As part of the goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, the packaging will display only health warnings and the contact details for Quitline, Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said on Thursday.

But British American Tobacco New Zealand's Susan Jones said the company would "take every action necessary to protect its intellectual property rights as would any other business faced with the removal of their brands".

"If government is prepared to do this today, are the next logical steps to force alcohol, fast food, salty or sugary products into plain packs as well?"

She said plainer packets were easier for criminals to counterfeit and the black market would undercut legitimate retailers, who followed rules regarding sales to minors.

"Perversely, smoking rates will increase as many more young people take it up after gaining greater access to cheap illegal cigarettes."

Fellow tobacco company Philip Morris also said it would argue against plain packaging, saying it would not reduce smoking rates and would "trigger a variety of adverse consequences and violates numerous international laws and trade treaties".

But Ms Turia said she was confident a plain packaging regime would meet all international commitments, including a major global treaty on tobacco control as well as a range of multilateral, regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements.

There will be a public consultation process before any final decision is made.

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