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Stepping up on smoking

By Hayley Gastmeier
[email protected]

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 standardise 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.”

Ms Fox said with just nine years to go, other measures needed to be introduced.

These included e-cigarettes brought in as cessation tools, a reduction in levels of nicotine in cigarettes sold in New Zealand, and to only have tobacco available from licensed premises so as to reduce the number of outlets where it could be sold.

She said it would also be great to see communities taking it upon themselves to increase within them the amount of designated smoke free areas.

Compass Health Wairarapa health promoter Kathryn Tomlinson said any moves made “to try and make people quit smoking” were excellent.

She said the new “yucky looking packs” would make tobacco unattractive.

“It will help young people not want to start [smoking] and it will make it less attractive for those who are already addicted.”

She said Australia were finding an increase of people quitting the habit since introducing the law.

“So we hope that will happen here.”

Ms Tomlinson said people could get support to quit through medical practices in the region and Whaiora’s stop smoking programme.

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