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NZ praises Aust plain-packaging ruling

18:18 Wed Aug 15 2012
The Australian government has won the fight for tobacco plain packaging (TVNZ)
The Australian government has won the fight for tobacco plain packaging (TVNZ)

Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia and the Cancer Society have praised a ruling in the Australian High Court endorsing the federal government's world-first plain packaging laws for tobacco.

The High Court decision means all cigarettes and tobacco products in Australia will have to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from December.

Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek dedicated the court victory to big tobacco's victims.

"For anyone who has lost someone to smoking - this one's for you," she told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Ms Turia says the decision gives New Zealand some security about moving forward with consultation on a similar policy.

"We have been watching the developments in Australia with huge interest, and we are extremely pleased that the decision now confirms that Australia's plain packaging regime is justified and conforms with the Australian constitution," Ms Turia said.

"This is more than just a victory for the Australian government, I think it is a global victory for those who have lost their lives to smoking, for their families and their communities."

Tobacco Control Advisor for the Cancer Society Skye Kimura said it was encouraging for New Zealand's plan to do the same.

"With tobacco products now out of sight and the consultation on plain packaging underway, this is good news," she said.

"It is great to see the Australian Government standing firm against the tobacco industry and standing up for the best public health interests of Australians."

However, big tobacco companies say the decision shouldn't have an impact on this side of the Tasman.

Imperial Tobacco New Zealand says it has no relevance to the New Zealand legal situation.

"The Australian High Court has ruled on the validity of this legislation, they did not rule on whether plain packaging is good policy," the company said in a statement.

British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) said the decision should be "cold comfort" to Ms Turia.

"Australia is alone in passing a plain packaging bill, countries such as Canada have also looked at the measure and chosen not to implement it," BATNZ spokesman Nick Booth said.

"Many more countries, including Russia, Mexico, Chile and Indonesia, have raised serious concerns about plain-packaging."

The High Court ruling comes a week after Imperial Tobacco completed a $45 million upgrade to its Petone factory which will quadruple its exports to Australia.

The victory against big tobacco should inspire other countries to push ahead with plain packaging laws, Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says.

"Governments can take on big tobacco and win and it's worth countries looking again at what the next appropriate step is for them," she told reporters.

Ms Roxon urged big tobacco to now "accept the decision of the umpire" and drop international efforts to curb plain packaging.