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First Reading of the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister for Health

Tuesday 11 February 2014

First Reading of the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill

Mr Speaker, I move, that the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I nominate the Health Select Committee to consider the Bill.

Mr Speaker, as a great grandmother, a grandmother of close to fifty mokopuna, I am acutely aware of the importance of branding upon the psyche of the young person. What really matters is not so much about being neat and tidy, but more that your socks have the tick strategically placed, the shirt is emblazoned with the latest label; the cap is the right colour and the right look.

And so when I read the research revealing that consumers buy branded products as much for their symbolic value as for their utility it made perfect sense.

In essence, the decision to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products in New Zealand is all about the branding – it takes away the last means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product.

When tobacco manufacturers push tobacco, they are not simply selling a stick of nicotine; they are selling status, social acceptance and adventure.

The design and appearance of tobacco products, and in particular the way they are packaged, influences people’s perceptions about these products and the desirability of smoking.

Brand imagery demonstrably increase the appeal of tobacco brands, particularly to youth and young adults; helping to attract new smokers and also implying wider social approval for tobacco use.

Mr Speaker, the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 introduced extensive restrictions on traditional forms of advertising for tobacco products.

Quarter of a century later, tobacco companies have deliberately used packaging design and appearance to make their products appear more desirable and to promote their use.

Mr Speaker, the objectives of this Bill are very clear; they are to:

· reduce the appeal of tobacco products and smoking, particularly for young people;
· further reduce any wider social acceptance and approval of smoking and tobacco products;
· increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warning messages and images and
· reduce the likelihood that consumers might acquire false perceptions about the harms caused by tobacco products.

For too long, tobacco companies have been creating brands and advertising to persuade us to think that smoking is glamorous, fun, cool, sophisticated and a part of life knowing they only had to sell the myth and the nicotine addiction would take over.

I want to commend those parties across this House, who have been consistently committed to this goal of being smokefree. When Parliament moves together in one direction, we can make significant progress and improve the health of New Zealanders.

And that is surely what should be uppermost in the minds of every politician – protecting the health of future generations; while at the same time taking prudent responsibility for the use of taxpayer funds.

We have been able to take a courageous approach to tobacco control measures and I strongly recommend we continue to do so. In this way, we will create better health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

Plain packaging will be most effective in building on other legislation to improve tobacco control, such as the annual ten percent tobacco tax increases through to 1 January 2016 and the ban on displaying tobacco products at the point of sale that this House overwhelmingly supported in 2011. No one measure will make the difference in isolation. Each of these measures addresses specific elements in establishing a comprehensive tobacco control regime.

Tax increases are a particularly effective policy tool to reduce tobacco consumption. We also know that reducing the visibility of tobacco products contributes to this objective.

Having removed the display of tobacco products in shops, we are now tackling how these products look, by greatly reducing their appeal, especially to young people, our children and grandchildren.

I am determined that we must denormalise smoking and build on the progress we have seen to date. This bill is about sending a very clear message to tobacco companies that this Government is serious about ending unnecessary deaths and poor health outcomes related to tobacco use.

The intent of the legislation is to prevent the design and appearance of packaging and of products themselves from having any visual or other effect that could serve to promote the attractiveness of the product or increase the social appeal of smoking.

The plain packaging regime will tightly control the design and appearance of tobacco product packaging and of the products themselves by:
· allowing the brand name and certain other manufacturer information to be printed on the pack, but with tight controls, for example on the font used, its size, its colour and its position on the pack;

· standardising all other design elements of tobacco product packaging, such as the materials, colours and type fonts that may be used;

· requiring the packaging to carry larger, more prominent, and more pertinent warning messages and graphic images;

· controlling the design and appearance of individual cigarettes, and other products.

The colouring and wording used on tobacco packaging has been shown to create misconceptions that tobacco products are less harmful and that it is easier to quit than is in fact the case.

Mr Speaker, internationally, smoking remains the largest cause of preventable death; it also contributes to profound health and social inequalities in outcomes for Maori and Pasifika peoples. There is no other consumer product that is so widely used and directly poses such a high level of health risk to users, particularly long-term users.

Quitting smoking or even better never smoking is almost always therefore the best single thing that a smoker can do for their health.

Quitting smoking, or even better, never smoking is the key to enjoying a longer and healthier life with their loved ones. As a nation the burden of disease and the national health costs caused by smoking are massive.

The introduction of plain packaging will do much to turn this situation around. It will discourage people from taking up smoking or using tobacco products and encourage people to be smokefree and healthier.

It will discourage people who have stopped smoking from returning to tobacco use.

It will also reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke from tobacco products – and I want to signal that I am still of the view that we can do a lot more on this front, particularly in the goals for increase the numbers of parents and caregivers who do not allow smoking in their car at any time, fully cognisant of the threat posed to children.

Finally, this bill will support New Zealand in meeting its international obligations and commitments under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and align the tobacco plain packaging legislation in Australia, consistent with the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement.

I am confident that this Bill is consistent with all of New Zealand’s international obligations.

We are convinced that plain packaging is a really important step on our path to being a Smokefree country by 2025, and that it will stack up against our World Trade Organisation obligations. That is why we are pushing forward to take the legislation through the Parliamentary processes without delay.

New Zealand takes all of its international obligations seriously. Our plain packaging regime is being developed to be consistent with our trade obligations, and our approach to negotiating new trade agreements continues to be to protect our ability to take public health measures such as plain packaging.

The agreements and treaties can and should work together to boost both international trade and public health and this is a good example where we can achieve both objectives.

While the tobacco industry may have laid down a threat that if this legislation is passed my message to them is that our country has a sovereign right and a legal right to protect its citizens. I am firmly of the opinion that it is not for any tobacco company to be telling us what we should be doing in our own land.

5000 New Zealanders die from smoking a year and that death toll places a responsibility on every politician to pass legislation in our land that will help save lives and increase wellbeing. Legislation that makes a tangible, enduring impact in the lives of the people in this country.

I commend this Bill to the House for its first reading.


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