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NZ Plain tobacco packaging bill passes third reading

Timaru North Street Dairy owner Jay Tailor does not think the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill will make a positive long term impact on smokers.

Plain tobacco product packaging will not help a Timaru smoker who spends $70 every five days on his habit quit, he says.

The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament on Thursday to address the 4500 to 5000 premature deaths caused by smoking every year in New Zealand.

To prevent potential young smokers from starting through the attraction to branding and bright coloured labelling, it is hoped the plain standardised packaging, to be implemented by the end of next year, will deter them.

Though the planned plain packaging had not been finalised, it was likely to follow the Australian design of green-brown with 75 per cent of the front emblazoned with health warnings and the brand name in small plain font.

Jamie Robinson, a 28-year-old freezing worker, has smoked for 17 years. Robinson has used gum, patches and pills to give up smoking but still can’t kick the addiction.

He spends $70 on 50 grams of tobacco, filters and rolling papers which lasts him about five days.

He can recall the same amount of tobacco 10 years ago was about $35. His wages have not increased at the same rate.

“I get agitated if I run out. I’m not very fit … I cough a lot and get out of breath.”

Robinson’s late brother introduced him to his first cigarette at the age of 11.

He did not think packaging would make a difference to his habit or to young people as peer pressure to smoke was stronger.

“It’s not socially acceptable for adults to smoke anymore but kids don’t think ahead.”

Murray’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon owner Geoff Gibson said he would rather see someone smoking while driving than drinking a bottle of liquor while driving.

He did not agree with the Government changing the packaging of “a legal product’ such as cigarettes when labelling on alcohol was remaining.

“The Government does not want to touch liquor and that causes social issues.”

Heather Sutcliffe has been the owner/operator of the Morgans Rd Four Square for 13 years. In that time, measures to curb smoking, such as graphic health warnings introduced in 2008 and hiding tobacco products in cabinets in 2012, had not stopped her regular smoking customers – or prevented new ones starting. She did not expect the new packaging to make an impact either.

“[Smokers are] addicted and try to stop but can’t manage it.”

At a cost of $25 on average for a packet of 20 cigarettes, people were still buying them, she said.

“We have parents come in with their kids and the kids are not allowed to have anything, but [the parents] still buy smokes. It puts families into hardship.”

Mountain View Dairy owner Kirtesh Shah did not think the bill would make a difference.

“People smoke anyway.”

And North Street Dairy owner Jay Tailor predicted once the bill was implemented, it may slow sales for the first six months but then it would return to pre-bill numbers.

A 24-year-old Timaru mother of two, who did not want her name to be published, admits she was attracted to smoking by the packaging at the age of 14.

“I used to buy a packet because of the colour [of the packaging] and buy a lighter the same colour to match it.”

She still smokes but said her children did not miss out on anything because what she spent would be money she spent on herself anyway.

“I buy smokes instead of getting my hair done.”

South Canterbury District Health Board smokefree facilitator Carmen Chamberlain said Australia had found the introduction, in 2012, of plain packaging, larger health warnings and new warnings, had reduced smoking prevalence beyond the pre-existing downward trend.

“It is estimated that plain packaging would have a similar overall effect as a five per cent price increase from a tobacco excise tax rise, without imposing an extra financial burden on low-income smokers,” she said.

“Overall, new evidence suggests that plain packaging will not only deter smoking initiation (its primary objective), but also stimulate cessation among smokers.

“Tobacco is a highly addictive product known to kill two out of three long-term users, and we welcome any steps that will support smokers to become smokefree.”

For face to face support to quit contact 0800 111 880 or check out the Facebook page Kick Ash South Canterbury.

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