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Parliament passes plain packaging law

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/09/2016

Cigarettes will start appearing on the shelves next year in drab packets with a big health warning plastered on the front.

Parliament on Thursday passed the plain packaging bill which has been in the works since 2014.

"There's no other product which is so widely used and poses such a high risk as tobacco," Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said.

"This is the next significant step in reducing the devastating harm."

He told parliament smoking caused between 4500 and 5000 premature deaths every year.

Tobacco is already heavily taxed and advertising is banned.

Now 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.

The enforcement date is still to be set but Mr Lotu-Iiga said the plain packets "will start to appear next year".

"They will be stripped of bright colours, there will be no glamour."

He said that in 1996, 25 per cent of New Zealand adults smoked.

That had dropped to 15 per cent today.

"We're heading towards five per cent, which is the 2025 smokefree target."

The bill passed its first reading in 2014 but it was put on hold because the government wanted to wait for the outcome of a legal challenge to plain packaging in Australia, which has had it since 2012.

The legal action failed in December last year, and the government decided to go ahead with the bill.

The bill was passed into law on a vote of 108 to 13.

NZ First and ACT opposed it.

NZ First's position is that the government should ban tobacco rather than meddle with the sale of a legal product.

ACT considers plain packaging has had a minimal impact in other countries.

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