Plain tobacco packaging approved

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia announces the packaging proposal

Hard-hitting controls over tobacco packaging have been approved by the Government.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia has just confirmed New Zealand will adopt plain packaging rules for tobacco products, in line with those introduced in Australia before Christmas.

Legislation will be introduced to force all tobacco products to be sold in plain, unbranded packets before the end of the year.

Announcing the decision on the controversial proposal, which she pushed for as co-leader of the Maori Party, Ms Turia says cigarette packets and tobacco pouches will be stripped of their logos.

All packets will have standardised packaging, fonts and type size. There will be "graphic warnings" on the packets, she says.

However, the government has put the brake on implementing the plan. The regulations to implement plain packaging will not be put in place until the outcome of the World Trade Organisation legal challenges against Australia are known.

Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic have challenged the Australia’s plain packaging laws in the World Trade Organisation and Australia is now fighting what has been described as one of the biggest trade disputes it has ever faced as a defendant.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned there is a reasonably high risk a WTO dispute settlement case or investment arbitration could be brought against New Zealand if similar legislation is introduced.

Ms Turia acknowledges the government will have  to manage some legal risks. 

"I'm confident plain packaging will be introduced in line with those [trade agreement] obligations,” she says.

"It's up to the tobacco companies to decide what form any legal challenge will take.

"They are very litigious. As far as they are concerned we think we are up to any legal challenges they might make."

Ms Turia says a court case could cost the government anywhere between $3m and $6m.

When she was asked how much it might cost the government in compensation if the tobacco companies win, she replied: "They won't."

The Ministry of Health will start work on policy work immediately.

Consultation about the plain packaging plans, run through the MOH, ended in October and more than 20,000 submissions were received – the majority in opposition.

Businesses have largely opposed the plain packaging proposal because of the impact on New Zealand’s trade relationships and intellectual property rights.

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13 Comments & Questions

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History will show this is the best thing Tariana ever did. While we are finally getting to grips with this plague that costs NZ taxpayers billions each year there is still much work to be done.
According to NZ Health Report 2012 about 40 percent of Maori still smoke. Raising the price and blacking out the ads will eventually kill the cancer.


Please explain: “costs NZ taxpayers billions each year”. The tax paid by smokers for their habit is more than three times the health-related costs they incur each year. Actually, smokers are subsidising others in the health sector. While I am not advocating for smokers this is the silliest piece of legislation to be enacted. You are correct, history will show how ineffective Ms Turia has been on this subject.


The "externals" from tobacco smoking are a far greater cost than the tax revenue. Thousands of people dying on average 14 years early because they smoked. This is great legislation. History will show this when smoking virtually disappears over the years ahead.


Now let's see the govt do something about drinking and the crime that follows it around.
No, that's too hard.


So what your saying is this woman from a race-based minority party with no mandate should have the right to infringe on people's right to make a choice from an informed position? Sounds like it. I don't like the sound of this at all, what will be next? Your NZ taxpayer comment is a load of nonsense anyhow as it does not take into account the amount of money the country will save from the smokers who die 20 years early and don't claim the pension for that time.


I guess it's a bit like a man from a party with no mandate getting his super city legislation through. It may well turn out to be his finest hour. MPs, of course, make these decisions from an informed position and as the prime minister will no doubt tell you he has a
mandate to horse trade with whom he likes. It's called MMP. I think he's backed a winner. The dead pensioner argument is spurious as it ignores the lifetime costs of health, education,,lost income and lost opportunity, not to mention mystery and mayhem that smoking causes. Maori have the most to gain from this legislation. Good on you, Tariana, for fighting for your people's health.


If Maoris want to smoke that's their right and its absolutely none of your business how some one else chooses to live their life. If you want to be told how to live your life move to China. I am so sick of you self-righteous liberals trying to force your moral code and nanny state on everyone else.


Within our community, it's the alcohol and drugs that cause the problems.
Now another alcohol outlet has opened about 3km away. Gosh, how many more do we need? We have had enough.
We find the occasional smoker very courteous. They go outside.
I'm beginning to wonder about the stastistics. How much do drunks and druggies cost the health system?
On talking to a health workers, drugs and alcohol is taking up many hospital beds.


Yep, just like it did with low-income alcohol abuse and violence.


Gotta kept them stupified with cheap booze. The meek and pacified lower and middle-class slaves may actually get out and protest something for once if you let them sober up!


Fit healthy people are the biggest burden on society. At best only pay income tax. Riding around on their bicycles causing accidents not paying road tax. Not drinking and paying alcohol tax. Dying late staying on the pension for 30 years then finally giving up the ghost to a costly illness when they're 103 years old. The sooner Tariana Turia is booted out as associate health minister the better.


The lines that start 'I am not a smoker but I don't agree with this change' are the worst. They are the real waste of space who support 'civil liberty'. I have smoked in the past and I am still tempted. Anything that stops people coughing their lungs up and causing a awful death is a good thing.


Both Labour and National have used the minority parties to propose legislation that will alienate a chunk of the major party supporters (e.g. Greens/anti smacking and Maori/cigarette tax hikes and packaging).

Will the next government use the "legalise dope party" to introduce more moronic legislation?


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