A new study has suggested that threats of lawsuits given by the tobacco industry contributed to the stall in New Zealand’s plain packaging legislation by at least three years.
Plain packaging legislation was first announced in April of 2012, completed in September 2016, and came into effect a further 18 months later, in March this year. The study, led by Dr Eric Crosbie of the University of California, and Associate Professor George Thomson from the University of Otago, indicated that legal threats were front of mind for government when explaining the delay.
Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Lance Norman, applauds the support for this plain packaging bill given by Labour, Greens, and Māori party MPs despite hesitation from opposition parties: "It is appalling that it has taken New Zealand 53 months to introduce plain packaging- especially when compared to our neighbors in Australia who did it in 18. While we’ve been calculating the financial risks of lawsuits we lost over 22, 000 members of our whanau".
Hāpai Te Hauora has long advocated for tighter control measures pertaining to reducing supply and access to tobacco, however continues to express concerns about the country’s ability to reach its Smokefree 2025 goal. Norman states, "For us to reach our goal in 2025, we should be tracking at a 10% smoking rate this year and we’re not. But just because previous government may have been slow to act, it doesn’t mean our current government has to be. We recognized Labour’s efforts in pushing for plain packaging who saw that we were within our right to pass this law. Now is the time for continued bravery in this tobacco war, alongside many public health groups that want to support you".