Tobacco plain packaging debate early next year

Parliament will begin its debate on plain packaging for tobacco early next year, Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia has confirmed.

Mrs Turia said this morning she expected the Smoke-Free Environments (Tobacco Products and Packaging) Amendment Bill to be introduced to the House in the New Year.

The hard-hitting law change would require cigarettes and tobacco to be sold in standardised packets with large health warnings.

In a statement, the minister said removing tobacco company colours, logos and other marketing designed to make tobacco products glamorous was an important step in reducing the uptake of smoking.

"Tobacco is a deadly product that kills 5000 New Zealanders every year and is one of the leading causes of life-threatening illnesses such as heart and lung disease and cancer.

"Plain packaging, together with bigger health warnings, will send a clear message that tobacco causes serious illness and death."

New Zealand would be the second country in the world to approve plain packets, after Australia. The United Kingdom and Ireland were also considering a law change.

Australia was facing dual legal challenges from tobacco companies and tobacco-producing countries after introducing olive-green, standardised packs in December.

New Zealand was also likely to face legal challenges if it followed Australia's lead, and officials have estimated the cost of a legal dispute would be between $2 million and $6m, not including compensation if a case was lost.

New Zealand was keeping a close eye on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) challenges against Australia by tobacco-producing countries Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia, Mrs Turia said.

She was confident a plain packaging regime would be in line with New Zealand's WTO obligations: "That is why we are pushing forward to take the legislation through the Parliamentary processes without delay."

There have been concerns expressed that New Zealand's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would give companies a direct pathway to sue the government, but the legislation was likely to be passed before the TPP was signed off.

- By Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald

Clear message

Here's a clear message to you, Tariana. Changing the packaging will make no difference to any smoker.

We all know it's not good for us, but while it remains legal it's our choice if we smoke or not. You could package it bright pink with warnings the size of a letterbox but you would have to have a screw loose in your head to think that it will stop any smoker from purchasing the product.

While you trying to justify your existance , perhaps you could also change the colours of brown paper bags and add warnings that drinking alcohol  is hazardous to you health -  that will solve the alcoholic problem in this country too, aye.

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