From today New Zealand legislation prevents the tobacco industry from using branding on their cigarette packaging. This marks the first day of a 12 week ‘wash out’ period in cleansing the market of existing stock and introducing plain packaging. These changes will mean tobacco packets will be the same standard dark brown/green colour as seen in Australia and the U.K; graphic pictures and health warnings will be enlarged to cover at least 75% of the front of tobacco packs, and all tobacco company marketing imagery will be removed.
Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Lance Norman, offers his support for this legislation and extends on it by addressing the wider challenge of supply reduction. "We congratulate those in government who spearheaded this move, especially the Māori Affairs Select Committee and Dame Tariana Turia. We also believe that the benefits of plain packaging could be maximised by implementing this in tandem with other efforts to reduce its access, appeal and affordability".
Tobacco researcher, Justinn Cochran, discussed her recent study at Auckland University which focused on the graphic health warnings of tobacco packaging: "We found that exposing smokers to negative health warnings, particularly those that are more disgusting can reduce how much attention they pay to tobacco packaging, which often serves as a reminder to smoke. These findings suggest that these legislative changes could be helpful in reducing the appeal of smoking and perhaps contribute towards changing attitudes around smoking."
It is estimated that the introduction of plain packaging in Australia in 2011 accelerated the decline of smoking prevalence and led to approximately 100, 000 less smokers in the 36 months following. Norman expressed his enthusiasm about what this mean for improved Māori health, but recognises now is a key opportunity to gain momentum in supply reduction which will make a significant impact on New Zealand becoming smoke-free: "We support this move from the government to reduce the appeal of cigarettes, and we must capitalise on it by increasing the focus on supply reduction".
"It is unreasonable to expect standardised packaging will be a silver bullet although it may be one more nail in the coffin".