Plain packaging of tobacco products: Regulatory Impact Statement (consultation phase)

This Regulatory Impact Statement has been prepared by the Ministry of Health.

Tobacco is a highly addictive and harmful substance leading to around 4500 to 5000 deaths per year in New Zealand, and Government has set a goal of making New Zealand essentially smokefree by 2025. In order to achieve this, New Zealand’s suite of measures to address tobacco-related harm needs to be as comprehensive as possible, including eliminating marketing tobacco products. This is still being done through packaging design.

Accordingly, the Government decided to actively consider the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products as a further step in the tobacco control programme. Plain packaging would remove all tobacco branding imagery and all other marketing devices from tobacco products. Packaging would have brand variant names in a small plain white font and a single background colour dominated by pictorial and text health warnings.

The Regulatory Impact Statement provides an analysis of options for addressing the problems resulting from the use of marketing devices on tobacco packaging including the option of plain packaging. It sets out in detail the regulatory issue to be addressed and considers other options for addressing it.

One option considered is to continue the existing controls and build on these incrementally with other measures such as enhancing health warnings. A second option involves refreshing and increasing the size of health warnings with no other changes to tobacco packaging. Other options are also discussed briefly but do not adequately address the policy objectives. The preferred option is introducing plain packaging.

Much of the evidence provided in the analysis is qualitative in terms of impacts on Government, the tobacco industry, printing and design companies, smokers and society. Consideration is also given to New Zealand’s international trade and investment obligations.

The Government has agreed in principle to introduce a plain packaging regime subject to the outcome of a consultation process. The consultative process will seek further evidence, including quantitative data, in order to assist the Government to make a final decision.

The Ministry of Health has consulted on the proposal to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in New Zealand.

Submissions closed at 5pm, Friday 5 October 2012.

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