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Opinion: Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco

Opinion: Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco                          

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 9:29a.m.

Tariana Turia's legacy is her big win over the tobacco giants

Tariana Turia’s legacy is her big win over the tobacco giants

Opinion by Patrick Gower

Political Editor

The (NZ) Government is going to introduce plain packaging – something that smashes ‘Big Tobacco’.

Plain packaging strips cigarette packets of all marketing and branding, developed and refined over decades.

It is a body blow to Big Tobacco.

So stand up Tariana Turia, you have done what few other politicians can claim – beaten Big Tobacco, beaten the multi-nationals, beaten the industry, beaten the lobbyists.

I’ve learned the Cabinet signed off Turia’s plain packaging proposal yesterday. A formal announcement will be made today or tomorrow.

You just know how much the packaging means to the tobacco companies by the way they have been fighting plain packaging – taking countries like Australia to court.

In stripping the cigarette packets, Turia has stripped the tobacco companies of dignity.

Any power the tobacco companies thought they may have had over the National Government is gone.

Turia has shown she has the power here.

The Government listened to her – not to Big Tobacco.

Many people ask what the Maori Party achieves in Government – often rightfully so.

Well, getting plain packaging past a Cabinet of cautious National ministers is quite frankly an incredible achievement.

It is the kind of thing they would have avoided if they could. But Turia has made it happen.

It will hurt Big Tobacco. They know it. There is no way back – once the packaging is stripped, they will not get the branding back on.

The price of cigarettes is getting pushed through the roof. Shop displays are gone.

But now the branding is set to go altogether. All that investment down the years – struck out. All that intellectual property – deleted.

This is an international battle as well – New Zealand is another country to fall against Big Tobacco on plain packaging. That will hurt them as well.

There will be a staged move towards plain packaging – it requires policy, and legislation.

Big Tobacco will keep fighting. They will try to smash Turia before she retires, they will try to smash this law change where they can, change the dates of introduction, take legal action, basically do whatever they can to water this down.

Even the hope of a change in the make-up of Government after the next election will be on Big Tobacco’s minds.

There will still be a fight to get this plain packaging introduced.

But make no mistake – Big Tobacco has taken a hit here. Turia already has a huge legacy.

Plain packaging looks to set to become a big part of it.

In her retirement, Turia will be able to look at plain packaging and say ‘I did that’.

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