The NZ Government is being urged to get on with introducing plain-packaging laws for tobacco products after tobacco company Philip Morris failed in its bid to challenge such laws across the Tasman.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, yesterday rejected a case brought by the global tobacco giant, unanimously agreeing with Australia's argument it had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
Philip Morris believes plain-packaging laws breach foreign investment protections the Australian government guaranteed in its trade agreement with Hong Kong, which contains an investor state dispute settlement mechanism.
The New Zealand Government has been waiting for the outcome of the Australian case before pushing forward with plans to introduce plain packaging.
Action on Smoking and Health NZ (ASH) director Stephanie Erick says the outcome of the protracted legal battle in Australia should give New Zealand greater confidence to introduce plain-packaging laws.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation says there's no further reason to delay introducing such laws.
"I'm calling on the Government to announce plain-packaging laws here immediately. Those lured to smoke by tobacco companies marketing are predominantly young, Maori and female," NZNO spokeswoman Kerri Nuku said.
"Any further delays will be responsible for more grieving whanau missing out on years with their daughters, sisters and mums. The best Christmas present the Government could give whanau is announcing plain packaging today."
Plain-packaging laws require all branding to be removed from packaging, which reduces promotion of the product.
The Government brought a plain-packaging bill to parliament in February last year, and it passed its first reading. The health select committee backed adopting the bill with just a couple of minor amendments, but it hasn't proceeded any further.
Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging.