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NZ fights with Aust on plain packaging

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/05/2017

New Zealand politicians say they have been fighting hard alongside Australia in the fight for plain packaging of tobacco products.

The World Trade Organisation upheld landmark Australian law on restrictive tobacco packaging after a five-year legal battle, Bloomberg news reported on Friday citing two people familiar with the situation. The formal ruling is expected in July.

New Zealand's Trade Minister Todd McClay and Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner say they've been working closely with Australia on the issue and the WTO case will be important for New Zealand.

"The WTO has a robust set of trade rules in place to preserve our rights and I remain confident that the WTO will find in Australia's favour on tobacco plain packaging," Mr McClay says.

He says the case is about a country's right to determine its own measures to protect public health.

The WTO case was launched in 2014 with New Zealand as a third party. New Zealand has presented evidence including appearing before the WTO panel in Geneva.

New Zealand will require plain standardised tobacco packaging when the Smoke-Free Environments Act comes into force on March 14, 2018.

Cigarettes will have to be sold in brown-green packets with a health warning covering at least 75 per cent of the front of the packet.

Ms Wagner says smoking is New Zealand's leading cause of preventable disease and the government is committed to the goal of making New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

"Plain packaging will reduce the appeal of tobacco products and the desirability of smoking," she says.

Tobacco is already heavily taxed and advertising is banned.

In 1996, 25 per cent of New Zealand adults smoked and that has dropped to 15 per cent.

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