A major milestone towards achieving New Zealand’s smokefree goal has been achieved in Parliament with the Third Reading of the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco standardised Packaging) Amendment Bill. This means that standardised (plain) cigarette and tobacco packs will almost certainly hit the shelves during 2017.

The law will prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand imagery and other promotional information on all tobacco packaging. Evidence from Australia shows standardised packaging reduced the attractiveness of tobacco products, and is proven to be effective in reducing uptake of smoking among young people.

Zoe Hawke, Manager of the Hāpai Te Hauora, National Tobacco Control Advocacy service says standardised packaging will complement the other suite of tobacco control measures in New Zealand, such as graphic health warnings and removal of point of sales displays.

“This development is fantastic, and we are looking forward to an early implementation to see standardised packets replace branded packs in stores as soon as possible.

“We still need to continue looking at other measures to strengthen the reduction of tobacco uptake and prevalence. A combination of evidence based interventions will get us closer to a place where all population groups reach the goal of a Smokefree 2025. We don’t want to leave anyone behind.”

The Cancer Society of New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Claire Austin, says while today’s decision is overdue, the focus is on protecting young people in New Zealand to not be tempted by tobacco.

“While this is a win for us in terms of work we have put in to achieving this, it is more a win for future generations who get to grow up in a New Zealand where smoking is a thing of the past and aren’t as affected by the burden of lung cancer.”

The Cancer Society and National Tobacco Control Advocacy service are joined by leading researchers in their applauding of the new legislation. ASPIRE2025 co-directors, Professors Janet Hoek and Richard Edwards of Otago University are glad the Government have taken note of the evidence and has made the wise decision to implement standardised packaging here in New Zealand. “We congratulate them, and look forward to joining countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and France in their standardised packaging implementation” said Professors Hoek and Edwards.

For decades, tobacco companies have used skilfully designed packaging to help attract the next generation of smokers and the government has rightly ended this practice,” said Professor Hoek, who has led several studies examining standardised packaging

In New Zealand, lung cancer accounts for 18.9 per cent of all deaths from cancer, making it the leading cause of cancer-related deaths – smoking being the leading cause of lung cancer.

The Smokefree sector are determined to reduce the incidence of smoking in New Zealand and say standardised packaging, alongside cessation, an increase in smokefree outside areas and Tobacco Tax, is a key part in achieving this.

By replacing brand imagery with health messages warning of wider adverse cultural, social, and economic effects, it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.