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Tobacco campaigner pushing for plain packaging

A world-renowned anti-tobacco campaigner has arrived in New Zealand to push the Government on introducing plain tobacco packaging.

While plain packaging for tobacco is likely to be in place early next year, the Government is consulting on the move, including design for packs.

Ahead of the cut-off for consultation at the end of this month, Kylie Lindorff, chair of Cancer Council Australia’s tobacco issues committee, this week flew in to help drum up support for the measure, which she wanted introduced as soon as possible.

Since standardised packaging was enforced in Australia in 2012, there had been an increase in people wanting to quit smoking, along with an ongoing reduction in smoking up-take.

A post-implementation review of standardised packaging in Australia concluded the tobacco standardised packaging measure had begun to achieve its public health objectives of reducing smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke, and was expected to continue to do so into the future.

“Research conducted after the implementation of standardised packaging in Australia has shown the tobacco industry is still finding way to advertise to consumers,” said Ms Lindorff, who will be giving a seminar on packaging in Auckland tomorrow .

“For instance, brand and variant names of tobacco products flourished after standardised packaging was adopted in an attempt to remind smoker of the supposed brand differences their old decorated packs conveyed. New Zealand should learn from this and restrict brand and variant names.”

Cancer Society Auckland’s chief executive, John Loof, said he hoped the Government would learn what had happened in Australia.

“Standardised packaging has proven to be effective and legally viable in Australia,” he said.

“The longer we wait, the further removed we are from achieving the Government’s goal of a Smoke-free Aotearoa by 2025.”

Tobacco use remained the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, with 4500 to 5000 deaths every year.

While plain packaging moves had been challenged via the World Trade Organisation, the Government has expressed confidence in being able to progress with the measures, which have already been introduced in several other countries.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in February, also allows tobacco-control measures, so New Zealand could advance anti-smoking policies without risking a legal challenge.

In a separate move, hefty excise increases announced in this year’s Budget would push up the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020.

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