Television shows depicting people smoking should be given an R rating, says an Otago University professor.
Yesterday, draft regulations were unveiled that would end tobacco imagery on packs and replace them with plain brown-green packaging.
But a new study from Otago University showed little change in the amount of smoking on television programmes over the past decade.
Researchers measured the total number of scenes featuring tobacco on prime-time, free-to-air television across one week and found almost a third of programmes contained tobacco imagery.
More than 80 percent of the imagery portrayed tobacco use in a neutral or positive light.
Nick Wilson, a public health associate professor at Otago University, said R ratings were long overdue.
"If New Zealand is serious about becoming a smoke-free society, it's got to look at how tobacco is normalised through the media, and to think about protecting children for reducing youth uptake of smoking."
Meanwhile, the legal representative for a multinational tobacco company said plain packaging on cigarettes did not work.
The plain packaging legislation had been on hold after tobacco companies tried to sue the Australian government when it introduced plain packaging in 2012 - but last year the legal challenge failed.
The law resulted in a 14 percent reduction in tobacco sales.
But the Australasian Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs at Imperial Tobacco, Andrew Gregson, told Morning Report the plain packaging was not responsible for the drop.
"There's no question that there are less smokers in Australia than there were prior to plain packaging being introduced. If you look at the downward trend, you will notice there has been no departure from that downward trend that is attributable to plain packaging. Put simply, that downward trend would have occurred anyway."