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Plain packaging bill passes second reading

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 30/06/2016

The bill that will force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets is back in parliament and on track to become law.

It passed its second reading on Thursday after being on hold since 2014.

The government last month confirmed it was going to put it through, and unveiled the proposed new brown-green packaging which is similar to that used in Australia.

Prime Minister John Key said at the time plain packages could be on the shelves early next year.

The government first mooted plain packaging back in 2012, the year Australia introduced it, and the bill passed its first reading in February 2014.

It went to a select committee, which supported it, but the government didn't want to take it any further at that time because it was worried about the possibility of costly legal challenges from big multi-national tobacco companies.

The Australian government was being sued at the time, but in December last year legal action by Philip Morris failed.

Australia is still waiting for the outcome of a challenge to its plain packaging laws that is being dealt with by the World Trade Organisation.

Despite that, the government decided to put the bill through its remaining stages.

It passed its second reading 108-13, with NZ First and ACT opposing it.

NZ First's position is that the government should ban tobacco rather than meddle with the sale of a legal product, and it doesn't believe plain packaging will work.

ACT leader David Seymour said the impact of plain packaging in Australia had been minimal.

"Every company wants to have its own brand so it can compete with other companies, that's perfectly understandable," he said.

The bill still has to pass its committee and third reading stages to become law.

It's estimated that between 4500 and 5000 New Zealanders die from smoking-related illnesses each year.

About 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders smoke. The figure for Maori is 35 per cent and for Pacific people it's 22 per cent.

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