Tobacco companies selling smokes in generic brown packaging

The new packaging, and colour, of cigarette packets.
The new packaging, and colour, of cigarette packets. Photo credit: File

The sight of branded, colourful cigarette packets is disappearing up in smoke.

From Wednesday, tobacco companies must sell cigarettes in generic brown packaging. New pictures and health warnings will be enlarged to cover at least 75 percent of the front of tobacco packs, and all tobacco company marketing imagery will be removed. 

Action for Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 (ASH) spokesman Boyd Broughton told Newshub this will make smoking less attractive to young people.

"It supports the reduction and uptake of smoking by young people, but as well, they're supported by other strategies such as smoke-free environments and perhaps an increased price of tobacco to make it unaffordable.

But she says changing the packaging has taken far too long.

"ASH first campaigned on plain packaging 30 years ago, and it has been 55 years since cigarette advertising was banned on TV and radio in New Zealand.

"It's astonishing that more than half a century later we are only just finishing the job.

"We don't want it to be an example of how long it takes for something to pass. We want it to be an exception and we want other strategies.

"We want the Government to be swift and act courageously."

Retailers have until June 6 to sell out of branded tobacco packets.

A timeline of tobacco advertising in New Zealand

1948 - First campaign by the Department of Health on the harms of smoking

1963 - Cigarette advertising banned in television and radio

1973 - Cigarette advertising on billboards and cinema screens banned

1974 - Health warnings appear on cigarettes

1990 - Smokefree Environments Act bans tobacco sponsorship of sporting events

1990 - Sponsorship Council established to replace tobacco sponsorship with Smokefree branding

1995 - Tobacco sponsorship ends

1995 - Tobacco branding on shop exteriors banned

1997 - Size of tobacco advertising in stores reduced and retailer incentives to sell cigarettes banned

2004 - All workplaces, schools and early childhood centres required to go smokefree

2008 - All cigarettes and tobacco packs required to have graphic health warnings over 90 percent of the pack

2012 - All point-of-sale advertising of tobacco banned, and cigarettes and tobacco product not to be displayed

2018 - All cigarettes and tobacco to be sold in plain packaging