Plain Packaging to proceed

Stuff reports:

Cigarettes will be stripped of their marketing and the Government says it will remove any illusion smokers have about their habit.

The Government has used World No Tobacco Day, to unveils its plans to remove all marketing material from a pack of cigarettes. 

Instead, they will be emblazoned with graphic health warnings depicting the consequences of smoking on human organs. 

“The Government is proposing to use the standard brown-green packaging which is similar to what is used in Australia,” Mr Lotu-Iiga said.

“We’re proposing that mandatory health warnings will cover at least 75 per cent of the front of the packs and all tobacco imagery will be removed. Brand names will be allowed but regulations will standardise how and where the printing is.

“These draft regulations and consultation are another important step in the process towards Smokefree 2025.”

I’m highly sceptical this will reduce smoking rates or smoking intake. If there was evidence it was, then I think you can argue such a move is justified. But there is simply no evidence it is effective. Countries that have introduced such as Australia, have also done other measures such as increased taxes, so there is no way to measure the impact of plain packaging alone.

My position has been that NZ should be world leading and trial it in a geographic area, such as the South Island. Then you could compare the change in smoking rates in the South Island to the North Island and see if there is any statistical difference. If there is, it would lead to a huge uptake of plain packaging around the globe. If not, then one can focus on measures we know actually work.

The other reservation I have against plain packaging is the precedent it sets. Once you accept it for one commodity, then the pressure will grow over time for it to be extended to others. Beer, wine, soft drinks, fast food etc. It is a bad precedent to sit.

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