Law change targets tobacco industry

Tobacco products and advertisements will have to be kept out of sight in shops, under a legal change passed by Parliament today.

All but three ACT MPs voted for the Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Amendment Bill.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the bill closed a loophole that the tobacco industry used to prey on young people.

''Retail displays, innocently positioned alongside everyday confectionary and sweets, are a key component of making cigarettes attractive to recruit young smokers. We're not going to tolerate this any longer,'' Mrs Turia said.

Shops have until next July to make the changes.

''No longer will people go into a dairy for milk and a newspaper only to be confronted by a wall of cigarettes.

"These 'power walls' not only encourage young people to try smoking, they also make it harder on those attempting to quit.''

Retailers had raised concerns about the cost of the changes and the Health Ministry would seek input from them on ways to minimise the impact.

The bill also increased fines for selling tobacco products to under 18 year-olds from $2000 to $5000 for an individual and up to $10,000 for a business.

Smokefree Enforcement Officers would be able to impose instant fines, rather than have to take offenders to court.

The industry would not be able to include tobacco-related words in shop signage or conduct ''covert'' sponsorship such as exclusive supply arrangements at outdoor music festivals.

Mrs Turia said the next step was plain packaging and a bill would be introduced to do that.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said every year 5000 New Zealanders died from smoking-related diseases.

''There's a lot more to be done yet but this bill has some very important measures.''

He called on New Zealand to be as ''brave'' as Australia in moving to plain packaging. Vending machines should also be targeted.

National's Paul Hutchison said it was also good the bill covered herbal products which also had serious health harms.

The internet, duty free stores and sponsored events were all covered by the ban and there was evidence it would make a difference, he said.

ACT MPs Sir Roger Douglas, Heather Roy and Hilary Calvert voted against the bill on the grounds of rational personal choice.

Green MP Kevin Hague said smoking was not rational but an addiction which affected the poor and marginalised the most.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) director Ben Youdan welcomed the new law.

''It was pleasing to see that the Bill received widespread support from Parliament. This process has been ongoing since 2007, when a petition was first presented to the Health select committee and we will continue to work towards eliminating smoking related harm in this country,'' he said.

NZPA