New Zealand is finally going to proceed with regulations in cigarettes packaging. Since some tobacco companies sued the Australian government for introducing plain packaging mandatory for tobacco products in 2012, the legislation was passed. New Zealand’s authorities were trying to imitate the law model from Australia, the first country to implement these kinds of rules. Prime Minister stated that New Zealand will continue with the process to apply the rules.

The tobacco plain packaging involves the use of predetermined boxes with general aesthetics for tobacco products, to remove any appeal that may be contained in the packaging. It is required that the tobacco company removes from the packaging all branding, and businesses must engage to use standardized graphics in the box as well as include health warnings.

The New Zealand Parliament is considering the adoption of plain packaging of tobacco products
The New Zealand Parliament is considering the adoption of plain packaging of tobacco products with the introduction of the Smoke-Free Environments. Image Credit: Otago Blog

Politics and laws on tobacco

Since the decade of the 90s, New Zealand proposed to regulate packaging standards in the cigarettes industry as a mechanism to reduce its popularity and lower the consumption. The World Trade Organization is now working to release a decision about these plain packaging laws since there are disputes between Australia’s authorities, Ukraine, and tobacco companies.

To representatives of the America’s National Foreign Trade Council, New Zealand must wait to the World Trade Organization’s final considerations to determine rules regarding this matter, since this result can become either a window to sue countries with packaging laws or a legal framework to implement this kind of measures. In that sense, the risk of legal action against New Zealand authorities is not over.

Members of the health ministry expressed that this regulation should be implemented as soon as possible.

“I was very disappointed, I have to say, because I thought we had enough mechanisms in our own country that would have prevented them [the tobacco industry] being successful here, because our health legislation is actually a lot tighter than what Australia’s is,” said Dame Tariana, former Associate Health Minister.

The response from the tobacco industry

The British American Tobacco Association (BAT) in the New Zealand section stated:

We are strongly opposed to the Smoke-Free Environment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill and call on the Government not to pass the Bill. However the Government has decided that the enactment of the legislation or the making of regulations, if necessary, could be delayed until the Australian cases conclude and certainty regarding World Trade Organization (WTO) legal implications is obtained.

To representatives from BAT, Plain Packaging is wholly disproportionate and unlawful, will not reduce smoking rates and will increase the production of illicit cigarettes, what translates into a bigger risk to the population.

As seen above, a graphic explanation on how the plain packaging works.
As seen above, a graphic explanation on how the plain packaging works. The implementation on New Zealand’s tobacco market will surely have a significant impact. Image Credit: WHO

Spokesmen from different tobacco companies stated that this kind of laws is a mechanism to confiscate brands of legitimate business. Cigarettes are a product subject to a lot of regulations that includes a ban on advertising, prohibition of event sponsorship, among other restrictions.

In that sense, BAT considers that the regulation for packaging will remove the ability of manfacturers to compete in a free market with product differentiation, “thereby leaving price as the only meaningful competitive lever. This would have the undesirable effect of moving the tobacco market towards a lowerpriced, commodity market.”

New Zealand will pass the laws in 2016.

Source: BATNZ