NZ urged to act quickly on tobacco bill

Unicef is urging New Zealand politicians to implement plain packaging on tobacco products "without delay", saying they will have a strong defence against a legal challenge.

Former Minister of Youth Affairs Deborah Morris-Travers, who is now the national advocacy manager for Unicef New Zealand, said any delay to the passing of the Smoke Free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill would harm children.

The Health Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on legislation which would strip all company advertising, aside from a plain type name of the variant, from all tobacco packaging.

The controls of the legislation would not come into effect until up to 18 months after royal assent. Prime Minister John Key has indicated that it would not be sent to the governor-general for assent until legal actions against similar legislation in Australia were settled.

Australia faces complaints to the World Trade Organisation over its legislation, which saw plain packaging introduced at the start of 2013.

Tobacco companies and countries which produce large quantities of tobacco have complained that the measures amount to stripping intellectual property rights from owners on legal products.

But Morris-Travers, an NZ First MP between 1996 and 1999, said as well as trade agreements, New Zealand had also signed up to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which required it to pursue policies which protected children from harm.

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