New Zealand government gives green light to plain cigarette packaging

Francesca Washtell
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Nearly one in five New Zealanders currently smoke (Source: Getty)

New Zealand is set to become the latest country to introduce plain cigarette packaging after new legislation passed its final hurdle in the country's parliament today.

The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Standardised Packaging) Amendment Bill passed with 108 to 12 votes.

It was first introduced in 2013, though a legal challenge launched by tobacco companies put it on hold.

The government released a statement in May, coinciding with World No Tobacco Day, saying it would model plain packaging requirements on those already in use in Australia.

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Under the new legislation, all cigarette boxes and other tobacco products will be sold in green or brown coloured packaging and health warnings will cover at least three quarters of the packet.

Similar to new rules in the UK brought into effect in May, tobacco company brand names will be allowed to appear on the packages, but restrictions will apply as to how and where they can be printed.

It is unclear exactly when the legislation will come into effect, but it is thought to be at some point early next year.

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“Standardised packaging will make a measurable difference to smoking rates in New Zealand, just as it has done in Australia,” said New Zealand's associate health minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

“The bland packs will maximise the impact of health warnings and cut out any false impression that smoking is cool or glamorous.”

The law will become a key part of the government's policy to reduce the number of smokers in the country to less than five per cent of the population by 2025.

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This will be a decrease from a total of 17 per cent of adults who smoked in 2015, according to the New Zealand Health Survey.

Australia became the first country to implement plain packaging guidelines in December 2012.

However, there is little direct evidence available so far that the packaging change has lived up to promises to reduce overall and youth smoking rates, and to increase the effectiveness of health warnings.

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