Plain packaging will hit stores hardest, says tobacconist

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 13/02/2014

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Moves to force the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco have been met with frustration by a Palmerston North tobacconist who says consumer habits won't change.

Richard Green, owner of two Discount Tobacconist stores in the city, said retailers would be hit hardest if brands were not easily identifiable, instead of consumers who were unlikely to notice.

But Associate Minister of Health and Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia has dismissed criticism of the plans.

"New Zealand has a sovereign right and a legal right to protect its citizens and will not bow to tobacco companies and their brands," she said.

Mrs Turia introduced the Smokefree Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill into Parliament on Tuesday night.

It passed its first vote by 118 votes to one and has been referred to the health select committee for public consultation.

The legislation would have branding removed from tobacco products, except the name of the variation in small plain type, with large warnings about the risks posed by smoking.

Mr Green said the issue was "just a bee in Tariana's bonnet" and that Prime Minister John Key had not considered the repercussions from the tobacco giants. "It's like saying to Coca-Cola, ‘sorry you can't have the word Coca-Cola on your bottle any more'. We just want a plain green bottle so you can't tell which is Fanta, which is raspberry, which is lemonade," he said.

"It's all the same colour, how's that going to work? And telling Cadbury you can't have all the 15 variants of chocolate nicely packaged up, we want a plain green packet and the font size is limited to 8, with the name and that's all."

Mr Green said plain packaging was "stupid" and would only frustrate retailers who were likely to sell the wrong product.

"As far as my store goes it will be a logistical nightmare moving stock, because staff are not going to know if they are 20s, 25s or 30s.

"Receiving stock in will be a nightmare . . . we will not be able to see at a glance what we are getting, because it will all look the same.

"But as far as the consumer goes, I don't think it will bother them at all."

The final legislation will await the outcome of challenges to the World Trade Organisation regarding plain packaging in Australia, which introduced the measures at the start of 2013.

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- Manawatu Standard

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