The New Zealand government has not yet committed to plain packaging for cigarettes, concerned with possible legal action from tobacco companies and other countries.
Prime Minister John Key said that the government needed to consult before making its mind up. He said, ‘‘There are lots of things we need to consider. I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk by any chance that plain packaging will take place but nor would I rule it out. It really is, genuinely, a true consultation period. As the National Party, we haven’t made the decision yet about whether we would support that any further.”
Australia has received challenges frpm three countries through the World Trade Organisation and from tobacco companies at the High Court for its plain packaging policy. Prime Minister Key declined to comment whether or not the Government might be put off by possible legal action.
The health ministry has released an assessment on the impact of a plan to strip all branding off the packaging of tobacco products, which would bring New Zealand into line with the a plain packaging policy in Australia due to take effect in October. While the ministry commented that it would reduce the likelihood of consumers being misled about the harmfulness of tobacco and increase the effectiveness of existing health warnings, it was also wary of litigation that may cost millions.
Tariana Turia, associate health minister, spoke in favour of plain packaging. She said, “There is strong evidence that plain packaging would further reduce the appeal of tobacco products and smoking in general, strengthen the impact of mandated pictorial health warnings, and reduce false perceptions about the harm from tobacco products.”
From the tobacco lobby, Christopher Bishop, corporate affairs manager for Philip Morris, claimed there was, "growing evidence of major international concern about the policy. Reports about the consideration of plain packaging in New Zealand have already met strong opposition from consumers as well as from many retailers who are against a policy that won’t reduce smoking, but that will add yet another regulatory burden to the way they run their businesses.”