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Government urged to adopt plain packaging for tobacco

SMOKING adults are a dying breed in New Zealand according to a report to the Ministry of Health, but smokefree organisations say we could reduce tobacco use much more by following Australia’s lead.

Returns supplied to the Ministry of Health by New Zealand tobacco manufacturers show average cigarette consumption has declined 6.3 percent a year since 2010 equating to a 23 percent decline in consumption over that time.

In Australia figures show consumption has plunged 13 percent in the last year and 19.6 percent in the three years since plain packaging laws and tobacco tax increases were introduced.

“Standardised packs and annual tax increases have provided a powerful double-whammy that’s saving many lives across the ditch,” said Smokefree Coalition chairman and National Smokefree Working Group member Dr Jan Pearson.

“New Zealand’s falling smoking rates must have big tobacco worried, but if we stopped playing ‘wait and see’ and introduced standardised packs we’d worry them even more and prevent a lot of sickness and suffering.”

The Smokefree Coalition and ASH are calling on the Government to be bold by making plain packaging legislation an immediate priority.

“Standardised packs are inevitable. Britain and Ireland will introduce them from May next year and the entire European Union is expected to do the same.

“Many other countries are considering the move and in years to come we’ll wonder what the fuss was about — just as we did with smokefree bars and workplaces,” Dr Pearson said.

“The evidence is clear that plain packaging stops tobacco companies’ ability to advertise through their clever and attractive branding.

“That means fewer people will die of smoking-related diseases, and fewer children will grow up to become the next generation of addicted smokers. Other states aren’t scared of big tobacco and we shouldn’t be either.”

ASH director Stephanie Erick says standardised packs and annual tax increases are just two of 13 measures Smokefree Coalition’ members advocate for through an evidence-based National Action Plan to achieve the Smokefree 2025 Goal.

“Smoking rates have reduced sharply in New Zealand within a generation — from 33 percent of adults in 1983 to less than 15 percent right now.

“That has been achieved through sustained efforts to reduce the availability of tobacco and to change public attitudes towards smoking. But we’re going to have to do much more to become a smokefree nation within 10 years.

“What’s happened with Australian smoking rates since plain packaging was introduced shows us that doing the same thing here would greatly contribute to achieving that aim.”

The Smokefree National Action Plan was developed by the smokefree sector to co-ordinate its leadership objectives pending the Government’s development of an end-game strategy towards Smokefree 2025.

— Smokefree Coalition

Plain packaging in Australia