21 May 2014

Doctors want plain packaging introduced

10:34 pm on 21 May 2014

Doctors say plain cigarette packaging will help cut smoking and should be introduced as soon as possible.

The Medical Association was one of several groups to give its views on proposed plain packaging to Parliament's health select committee on Wednesday.

no caption

The bill on plain packaging will be given its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Chairman Mark Peterson said the harms from tobacco use are well established, with between 4000 and 5000 New Zealanders dying each year as a result of their smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.

"It's our view that tobacco packaging is an effective form of tobacco marketing and the bill's proposed introduction on the plain paper packaging for all tobacco products will remove what is in effect the last major promotional mechanism available to the tobacco industry."

Dr Peterson said evidence is emerging in Australian that plain packaging, introduced there in late 2012, is having the intended effect, particularly on young people and those trying to quit.

Food council urges caution

But food and beverage makers say removing branding from cigarette packages would be a major step and New Zealand should not take it.

The Food and Grocery Council's chief executive told the select committee that removing trademarks and company branding from cigarette packs would deny firms the chance to make use of their own intellectual property.

Katherine Rich said it could spark trade difficulties and extend to other products, such as wine or infant formula.

"We consider the bill will compromise the right of companies to use their trademarks and that this will then become the beginning of standardised packaging for other products considered a health risk such as wine, confectionary, dairy products - particularly infant formula."

The council said it supports healthy lifestyles and reducing harm, but there's no evidence that removing trademarks and branding from cigarette packets would add to current measures. Ms Rich said evidence that the change would reduce smoking is non-existent, outdated or weak.

The council believed there could be trade consequences and it would be prudent to wait to see how a similar move goes in Australia.