The introduction of standardised, confronting packaging for tobacco products is cause for celebration for members of Smokefree Otago.
The coalition, which comprises smokefree campaigners from the health sector, education and community organisations, is working towards the Government’s Smokefree 2025 goal – to have 95% of New Zealanders smokefree by then.
Health promotion adviser Joanne Lee said the introduction of standardised packaging was a great step forward after years of waiting.
“We’re excited to see this happening at last, and pleased that cigarettes will now be packaged to depict the exact product they are,” she said.
“Tobacco products kill two-thirds of the people who use them, and more than 5000 New Zealanders die of smoking-related illnesses each year.”
Introduced yesterday, the standardised packaging is plain brown and green, and depicts graphic images showing the health consequences of smoking. The prominence of branding will also be reduced.
Health Minister Dr David Clark said the Government was committed to reducing the harm caused by smoking.
“The introduction of plain packaging, which will feature graphic images and health messages, is another step towards the goal of making New Zealand smoke-free,” he said.
University of Otago lecturer and Aspire 2025 co-ordinator Professor Janet Hoek said the Maori Affairs Select Committee and Dame Tariana Turia should be congratulated on the initiative which led to the introduction of the policy.
Aspire 2025, which brings together New Zealand research groups in support of the Smokefree 2025 goals, has urged the Government to increase funding for smokefree campaigns.
It has also called for a dramatic reduction in the number of retail outlets selling tobacco, removing additives, increasing the minimum purchase age, increasing tobacco tax and introducing a minimum retail price for tobacco products.
Prof Hoek said New Zealand had three important opportunities to maximise the impact of standardised packaging, by running an intensive mass media campaign, evaluating the results and by ensuring frequent introduction of new on-pack warnings.
“It is important to introduce new ideas and new images to stimulate and promote quit attempts,” Prof Hoek said.
It was particularly important that many of these were relevant to young people, who could struggle to relate to images of the long-term impact of smoking, she said.
Smokefree co-ordinator Debby Newton said since the Smokefree Environments Act was passed in 2004, there had been many positive changes, from smokefree bars, restaurants, playgrounds, and campuses to removing tobacco from public display at shops.
“For a long time, these products were displayed at dairies alongside sweets and other products that appeal to children,” Ms Newton said.
“Now that is no longer the case.”
Since the legislation took effect, youth smoking rates had dropped considerably.
Ms Newton said many long-term smokers also continued their efforts to quit, although on average it took 20 serious quit attempts to succeed.
In 2017, the Southern Stop Smoking Service received 2082 referrals and of these, 660 set a quit date and 453 had been validated as being smokefree.
Free support is available for smokers wanting to quit through the Southern Stop Smoking Service, phone 0800 925 242, (03) 214-5260, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.kaitahu.maori.nz/online-referrals
Standardised packaging introduced yesterday.
Six weeks allowed for old stock to be distributed and a further six weeks for old stock to be sold.
After June 6, 2018, only standardised packs can be sold.
New Zealand tobacco packets will be the same standard dark brown/green background colour as Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and France.
New 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.