Plain Packs Will Help Prevent a New Generation of Smokers
Plain packaging for tobacco products must be introduced without delay to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to the detriment of our young people's health, says the Paediatric Society's Dr Philip Pattemore.
Speaking about the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, Dr Pattemore said at least 39 child morbidity and mortality risks have been associated with exposure to tobacco smoke including childhood cancers, miscarriage, cleft palate, SUDI, asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, learning difficulties and behavioural problems.
He said plain packaging will remove the ability of the tobacco industry to surreptitiously market their deadly products to young people and to the adults whose smoking affects them.
It's well known the tobacco industry views the cigarette pack as a marketing tool, especially towards young people. Their published internal documents have shown how heavily they rely on their packs to make smoking attractive and, due to existing advertising restrictions, packaging has become their last remaining advertising tool.
In addition to changing the colour and look of tobacco packets, the Bill's amendments will also focus on increasing the size and effectiveness of current health warnings on all tobacco packaging. The aim is to make the health messages harder hitting and more relevant to New Zealanders. The Paediatric Society of New Zealand fully supports the Government's commitment to making Aotearoa New Zealand a smokefree nation before 2025, and applauds the leadership and legislation that works towards this goal.
Packaging often includes descriptors, such as 'smooth', 'low tar' and 'menthol' complemented by colours that are designed to give false impressions of lower toxicity. By placing these cigarettes in uniform plain packs and increasing the size of the health warnings, consumers will get the clear message that cigarettes branded in these ways are no less poisonous or deadly.
Furthermore, he says, studies have shown cigarettes in plain packaging are looked upon less favourably than those in branded packets. In one study smokers inferred cigarettes in plain packs would be less rich in tobacco, less satisfying and of lower quality.
When plain packs were introduced in Australia, Quitline and Facebook sites were inundated with comments saying cigarettes from plain packs tasted pathetic, sickening and lacked flavour. Many even pointed the finger at the government, arguing they must have done something to make cigarettes taste different. That just proves how powerful pack branding really is.
Adults in childbearing years quitting smoking must take centre stage because this is the only way to ensure a smokefree environment for children. Smokefree parents provide a role model for smokefree young people and erode the image that smoking is a desirable adult behaviour. Plain packaging is essential for this to happen.
Dr Pattemore said the time to implement plain packaging is now and there?s no point waiting to see what happens in Australia, where tobacco companies are challenging the government's legislation.
Delaying plain packaging while we watch Australia's World Trade Organization arbitrations play out is already costing us in child health, and these are far greater terms than the tax dollar.
The Paediatric Society of New Zealand is the national professional association of paediatricians, paediatric nurses and other child health professionals. It strongly supports the early implementation of the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, as it directly impacts on the appeal of tobacco to young people, and their uptake of smoking.
For more information
Dr Philip Pattemore MD FRACP
Christchurch School of Medicine
03 364 0734
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