Plain packaging bill expected to progress
Prime Minister John Key expects legislation that will enforce the plain packaging of cigarettes to start moving through Parliament "sooner rather than later".
The bill was introduced in February last year and passed its first reading.
It went to the health select committee, which supported it, but it was put on hold to await the outcome of a legal challenge against the Australian government's plain packaging laws by tobacco giant Philip Morris.
In December the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, rejected the the case brought by Philip Morris, unanimously agreeing with Australia's argument that it had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
"I expect to see progress made on this issue," Mr Key said at his post-Cabinet press conference today.
"We're discussing it at the moment... it will be sooner rather than later."
He wouldn't commit the Government to a firm date for passing the legislation but said he thought the bill would have its second reading - its next stage - some time this year.
"Late last year I asked for advice on this, a number of other countries are moving on it and we're feeling a lot more confident," he said.
The Government wanted to wait for the outcome of the case in Australia because it didn't want to face the cost of litigation brought by the wealthy tobacco multi-nationals.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership 12-nation free trade agreement, which the Government recently signed, specifically excludes the possibility of New Zealand being sued over anti-smoking legislation.
However, it could be several years before the TPP is implemented.