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New cigarette pack health warnings hit shops

22 December 1999

New cigarette pack health warnings hit shops

CIGARETTE packs with larger, stronger health warnings have begun to appear in shops. The packs also display a health warning in Maori.

From 1 January 2000, all tobacco products manufactured or imported for sale in New Zealand are required to display, in rotation, the following health messages:

Smoking kills
Smoking is addictive
Smoking when pregnant harms your baby
Smoking causes heart disease
Smoking causes lung cancer
Your smoking can harm others

The packets will also carry a health message in te reo Maori - Ka mate koe i te kai hikareti (smoking kills).

These messages will take up not less than 25 percent of the front of packets of tobacco products and more detailed information will take up a third of the rear of the packets.

Ministry of Health Senior Analyst Matthew Allen said the new health warnings would provide smokers and non smokers with more information about the adverse health effects of smoking, and may spur smokers into taking action to quit.

"Around 4700 New Zealanders die early from smoking-related illnesses each year. The new warnings will not only remind people of the hazards of smoking, but they also go into detail about how smoking kills, is addictive, causes lung cancer, can harm the baby if you are pregnant, and so on.

"I hope the visibility of the new warnings will spark debate about smoking, and provide a catalyst for some people to give up."

Mr Allen said the Ministry was not suggesting the new health warnings were a complete answer to the smoking issue.

"The new warnings are only one component of New Zealand?s comprehensive efforts to reduce smoking. New Zealand takes a four-pronged approach to tobacco, comprising of health promotion, legislation and enforcement, tobacco taxation, and quit smoking support.

"It is internationally accepted that the best tobacco control programmes use a number of strategies to discourage smoking. The stronger health warnings will work with other strategies currently in place in New Zealand to better inform smokers of the risks of smoking and to encourage quit-attempts.

"The amount of tobacco sold in New Zealand has reduced by a third in the last decade, and there are some early indications that the mid-1990s increase in smoking by young people may be levelling off.?

Mr Allen said that the dawn of a new millennium was a great time to quit.

"I urge people to consider quitting for a healthier 2000. People taking this step can call the 24-hour national Quitline on 0800 778 778 for a free quit pack or to talk to a Quitline advisor.

Tobacco products will also be required to display:

increased information about tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide (CO) on one side of the pack (cigarette packs only)

the number of the free national Quitline (0800 778 778).

The new warnings, and other information, will be in black writing on a white, black-bordered background, making the messages striking and noticeable, Mr Allen said.

ENDS

For further information contact; Sue McCabe, Media Advisor, 04 496 2067 or 025 495 989 Internet Address: http://www.moh.govt.nz

Background Information

The following health warnings and other information has to be displayed on tobacco packets by 1 January 2000:

In rotation, six health warnings, taking up not less than 25 percent of the front of packets of tobacco products. The warnings are:

smoking kills
smoking is addictive
smoking causes heart disease
smoking when pregnant harms your baby
smoking causes lung cancer
your smoking can harm others

Tobacco products will be required to display a detailed explanatory message which will take up 33 percent of the rear of the packet. There are six explanatory messages which detail how smoking kills, how it is addictive, how it causes lung cancer, and so on.

The te reo Maori health message - Ka mate koe i te kai hikareti - ("smoking Kills") will be displayed on the front and back of the pack as part of the health warning (front) and explanatory message (rear).

Packs of cigarettes must also in future display increased information about tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide (CO) on one side of the pack.

Cigars, roll-your-own tobacco products and pipe tobacco will not be required to display this information at this time as there are no internationally-accepted methods for testing the constituents in these products.

The telephone number of the national Quitline will be placed on all tobacco products (except single cigars).

All the above will be in black writing on a white, black-bordered background, making the messages much more noticeable and striking.

Small tobacco importers (those importing less than 0.2 percent of the total tobacco market) are permitted to use non-removable adhesive warning labels on their tobacco products or to display health warnings that are "substantially in the same terms or substantially to the same effect" - and of a similar size and appearance - as the other health warnings.

Labelling of cigar products

Cigars (as well as pipe and roll-your-own tobacco products) do not have to display constituent (tar, nicotine and CO) information, nor do cigars sold singly have to display any warnings. In addition, non-removable adhesive health warning labels are permitted on cigar packaging.

Transition times

In order for tobacco companies to modify plant and equipment to produce the new packaging, a period of nine months was allowed before domestically-manufactured product had to carry the new tobacco labelling (to 1 January 2000). A period of 15 months has been allowed for imported product (to 1 July 2000). A period of six months has been allowed for retail outlets to quit stocks of non-complying product.

Warnings before 1 January 2000 Previously, New Zealand had four warnings on cigarette packets, which had to take up no less than 15% of the front and back of the cigarette packet. These warnings had to be in a colour that "affords a distinct colour contrast" to the background colour. The levels of tar and nicotine in tobacco smoke were also required to be listed. The warnings were:

Smoking causes lung cancer
Smoking causes heart disease
Smoking damages your lungs
Smoking causes fatal diseases

ENDS

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