From today the tobacco industry is stopped by law from using branding on their cigarette packaging. Retailers have a 12 week ‘wash out’ period to clear old stock from the shelves and replace them with plain packs by June 6.

The replacement plain packs will be a standard dark brown/ green colour, have no traditional tobacco company imagery and will feature graphic pictures and health warnings over at least 75 per cent of the front of the pack.

The move is particularly welcomed by ASH (Action for Smokefree Aoteroa 2025) who began campaigning for plain packaging 30 years ago.  Boyd Broughton, the ASH programme manager said it was “astonishing” that it taken more than half a century from banning cigarette advertising to get to the point of achieving plain packaging (see ASH-supplied tobacco advertising timeline below).

University of Otago Professor Janet Hoek, the co-director of ASPIRE 2025 said the plain packaging policy was a ‘major step forward’ but also wants the Government to ensure standardised packs maintain their impact on smokers.

She said research studies indicate that on-pack warnings needed to be refreshed regularly so smokers were exposed to multiple reasons for quitting and the on-pack warnings needed to resonate with diverse groups of smokers.

“No marketing manager would consider using a single communications theme for more than a decade, yet this has been the approach taken to date in New Zealand where the pictorial warnings introduced in 2008 have been used for ten years,” says Professor Hoek.

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Lance Norman, congratulated those who spearheaded the plain packaging move especially the Māori Affairs Select Committee and Dame Tariana Turia.

“We also believe that the benefits of plain packaging could be maximised by implementing this in tandem with other efforts to reduce its access, appeal and affordability,” said Norman.

Hāpai Te Hauora said it was estimated that the introducing plain packing in Australia  in 2011 accelerated the decline of smoking prevalence and led to approximately 100, 000 less smokers in the following 36 months.

Norman said New Zealandmust capitalise on plain packaging by increasing the focus on supply reduction.”

“It is unreasonable to expect standardised packaging will be a silver bullet although it may be one more nail in the coffin”.

Broughton said tobacco companies had spent millions of dollars fighting plain packaging since the early nineties. “This has been a marathon battle against a global giant,” he said.

He noted that plain packaging was only one of a suite of strategies recommended by the Māori Affairs Select Committee to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal and
“New Zealand had a lot of work left to do”

‘We only have seven years left to achieve the Smokefree goal. It’s a sprint to the finish, and we urge the new Government to start running’.

ASH said since New Zealand banned tobacco advertising on TV in 1963, cigarettes had killed over quarter of a million New Zealanders – and continue to cost us over 5,000 lives and over 800 Māori lives per year. “There are safer alternatives, and letting people know about these instead of cigarettes could save a lot of early and preventable deaths.”

A brief timeline of tobacco advertising in New Zealand


First campaign by the Department of Health on the harms of smoking


Cigarette advertising banned in television and radio in New Zealand


Cigarette advertising on billboards and cinema screens banned


Health warnings appear on cigarettes


Smokefree Environments Act bans tobacco sponsorship of sporting event

Sponsorship Council established to replace tobacco sponsorship with Smokefree                  branding


Tobacco sponsorship ends

Tobacco branding on shop exteriors banned


Size of tobacco advertising in stores in reduced, and retailer incentives to sell                    cigarettes are banned


All workplaces, schools and early childhood centres required to go smokefree


All cigarettes and tobacco pack are required to have graphic health warnings                      covering 90 percent of the pack


All point of sale advertising of tobacco is banned, and cigarettes and tobacco                      product must not be on display


All cigarettes and tobacco must be sold in plain packaging

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