Plain packaging

Andrea Vance reports at Stuff:

The government is to forge ahead with a ban on branded cigarette packets.

Cabinet has agreed ”in principle” to introduce a regime alongside Australia – but only after public consultation.

Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia announced the move this evening, calling it ”a significant to our goal of making New Zealand smokefree by 2025.”

The open display of cigarette and packs in all dairies and other shops is banned from July 23 July this year.

”Plain packaging is the next step to ensure that once they are in the hands and homes of smokers, the packs don’t promote anything other than our serious health warnings and quit messages,” Turia said.

I’m not convinced that plain packaging does much to reduce smoking rates. If having a health warning and photos of diseased organs do not put people off smoking, I don’t see how removing (for example) the Rothmans logo will have any impact.

The arguments for plain packaging are here. Having read the review of the literature, I couldn’t see anything that was near conclusive. At best it seems to be “This might make them less appealing”.

I think the most effective measure is to keep hiking the excise tax.

I also worry about the precedent value. The wowsers want to already ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship. Is the next step then to have plain packaging for alcohol? No brands for beer!

And then you have that lethal Coke substance. Will that be next for plain packaging?

As I said, I’m in favour of sensible measures which are effective in reducing smoking rates. But I’ve yet to see any evidence that plain packaging has a significant impact, and the precedent it creates may be one we regret.

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