From today, it is illegal for tobacco companies in New Zealand to sell cigarettes in branded packaging but the implementation has had a mixed response. This is the final week of the 3 month ‘wash out’ period in cleansing the market of existing stock and introducing plain packaging. These changes mean tobacco packets are now 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 are removed.
Last week, Hone Harawira came out in opposition to the legislation, arguing that it’s effectiveness is limited when it targets smoker behaviour, not the tobacco industry. In an interview on The AM Show, he stated "Plain packaging has been proven overseas to be a step in the right direction but again, it's not doing anything to target the tobacco industry, and we should be going after them".
The significant pressure that store owners experience from their tobacco contracts has also come to light in other recent news. Hāpai Te Hauora recently supported a group of young students in Kelston, Auckland, to influence their local dairies to stop selling cigarettes on World Smoke Free Day.
Stop the Stock in Keli-Block campaign lead, Lineti Latu, stated that the substantial financial pressure dairy owners face from tobacco companies influenced many to not participate in the campaign. Latu stated that "Most of the dairy owners we worked with didn’t want to sell cigarettes but feel like their hands are tied because of the contractual and financial pressure. The government need to be targeting the tobacco industry, not just those who smoke who are already well aware of the risks".
Hāpai Te Hauora have in the past, voiced concerns about the limited effectiveness of plain packaging for Māori unless it is implemented in tandem with other efforts. Mihi Blair, General Manager for the Tobacco Control Advocacy service at Hāpai Te Hauora stated that now is the time for the government to step up and do more in targeting the tobacco industry: "If the government is as committed as they say they are in achieving Smokefree 2025, their upcoming plan must include how they intend to block industry efforts from over supplying to poorer communities".
Spokesperson for the Cancer Society of New Zealand National Office, Shayne Nahu, wants to see proactive leadership by decision makers and states "Plain packaging is one measure among many that is needed to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. We look forward to working alongside others and with the Government on developing a strong action plan to get us all there."