New Zealand announced on Monday plans to introduce cigarette-style packaging regulations, which will prohibit cigarette packages from being color-coded, printed on clear paper or printed in any other way that points to the fact they contain tobacco products. The new rules, to take effect in September 2020, will cover all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. According to the AP, the rules will apply to multinational tobacco companies, as well as those with local operations.
The regulations do not include a ban on products that are packaged differently from standard tobacco products, like menthol cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco. Instead, they will restrict packaging to plain, solid-colored packaging with images of health warning images, the AP reported. The regulations come after more than two years of consultation.
“The packaging of cigarettes is currently a confusing and convoluted place of advertising to sell the product,” Health Minister David Clark said in a statement to Reuters. “The new packaging will enable the health warnings people know are there to be seen by people.”
Clark’s statement on the new regulations also noted, “This campaign ends an era of rational cigarette packaging which operated prior to 2010 and is considered to be the norm in the rest of the world.”
In New Zealand, smoking rates are well below average in every age group, according to the AP. On average, in 2016, 18.5 percent of New Zealanders smoked cigarettes, but the AP noted that it is the 18-to-21-year-old age group that has seen the largest spike in smoking rates. In addition, children under the age of 17 were smoking rates were at 28 percent in 2016, compared to the 15.6 percent average for all youth smokers. In the past few years, health advocates in New Zealand have also reported a spike in the number of young New Zealanders using e-cigarettes, and some have called for the sale of e-cigarettes be restricted.
According to the AP, many Americans have complained that new tobacco packaging regulations announced by U.S. regulators in March — which banned companies from advertising their products in stores and requiring digital health labels on package material — will unfairly inhibit companies from marketing their products in the U.S. But Philip Morris International, one of the major manufacturers of cigarettes, recently argued that “if tobacco packaging and flavors are prohibited, the only two visible marketing elements in many markets will be the names of the cigarette brands on the packs and the weights on the cartons.”