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Nurses call for urgent tobacco plain packaging laws in NZ after Australia wins legal battle

Nurses are calling on the Government to immediately introduce plain packaging for tobacco, following a landmark court decision in Australia.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia had attempted to challenge the packaging laws introduced in 2011, saying they breached a trade agreement.

On Friday the tribunal in the arbitration agreed unanimously with Australia’s position that it had no jurisdiction to hear the company’s claim.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation spokeswoman Kerri Nuku said the New Zealand Government had been taking a “wait and see” approach, depending on the outcome.

“Today the court proved the tobacco giant had no leg to stand on, and there is no further reason to delay introducing plain packaging in New Zealand,” she said.

Nuku called on the Government to announce plain packaging laws immediately.

“Time lost is lives lost.”

Smokers hooked in by tobacco marketing were predominantly young, Maori and female, she said.

“Any further delays will be responsible for more grieving whanau missing out on years with their daughters, sisters and mums.”

Australia was the first country in the world to mandate plain cigarette packs with no brand logo or colours permitted.

Philip Morris has slammed the decision, saying it does not validate plain packaging in Australia or anywhere else.

It also said it would review the court’s decision, suggesting the battle may not be over yet.

The company brought the case against Australia using a legal mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

ISDS clauses are included in many trade agreements, including the one signed between Australia and Hong Kong, where Philip Morris Asia is based.

The tobacco giant’s case is the first investor-state dispute to be brought against Australia.

New Zealand was the first foreign country to secure a free trade agreement with Hong Kong, through the Closer Economic Partnership (CEP).

Trade Minister Todd McClay, who is currently overseas, has been approached for comment.

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