Plain packaging 'working better than expected'

The packages are stripped of any logos and branding (Getty)
The packages are stripped of any logos and branding (Getty)

Australia's plain packaging legislation is being credited with the biggest drop in smoking rates in 20 years.

Kylie Lindorff of Cancer Council Victoria, in New Zealand to drum up support for plain packaging here, says there is no reason for us delay any longer.

"The evidence is absolutely clear that plain packaging is working, and in fact working better than expected," she told Paul Henry on Wednesday.

The number of Australians smoking has dropped 13 percent in two years, with studies showing at least a quarter of that is down to making cigarettes unappealing to the eye.

"That's been particularly impressive in young people," says Ms Lindorff. "With older smokers, we've found the graphic warnings on the packs stand out more, so they're getting the health messages more.

"Also, the packs are less able to mislead that one cigarette might be less harmful or lighter than others."

The packages are stripped of any logos and branding, bar the name of the manufacturer and the kind of cigarette it is - both written in plain text. The majority of the packets are covered in graphic images of the damage smoking causes and stark warnings written in capital letters.

"It's quite restrictive and rightly so, given that these products kill two out of three of their long-term users," says Ms Lindorff.

The cigarettes themselves have to be plain white, with only a "corked tip" for decoration allowed. Ms Lindorff says if we're not ready to go all the way with plain packaging, making cigarettes themselves look ugly could be a start.

"There's been some research out of New Zealand that showed if the sticks themselves were an unattractive colour, that would make them less appealing."

The Government here has been holding out on introducing plain packaging over fears of legal action from Big Tobacco, but Ms Lindorff says that too is no longer an excuse.

"There's still one trade agreement we're waiting to hear the outcome of, but there have been two other challenges that have gone the Australian government's way, and quite conclusively."

A Bill to introduce plain packaging similar to Australia's passed its first reading in 2014, but was put on hold while the Government awaited the outcome of legal action brought by Philip Morris. It passed its second reading in June, with only ACT and New Zealand First opposed.