Photographer: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand, Norway Plan to Require Plain Packs for Tobacco

  • South-Pacific nation aims to become smoke-free by 2015
  • Norwegian health minister says tobacco to become outdated

New Zealand and Norway intend to force tobacco companies to remove branding on cigarette packets and other tobacco products as more countries follow the lead of Australia across the world.

The New Zealand government, which aims to become a smoke-free nation by 2025, is proposing plain cigarette packaging with all tobacco imagery removed and with prominent and gruesome health warnings covering at least 75 percent of the front of the packs. The Norwegian government will send a bill to parliament in June that would strip tobacco products of logos, Health Minister Bent Hoeie said at a conference in Oslo Tuesday.

Australia has led the way in plain packaging after legal challenges failed to overturn new tobacco branding laws there. The U.K., Ireland and France were the first European countries to back the measure, which prompted legal challenges from cigarette makers including Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc.

“The louder they scream, the more effective the measure must be,” said Douglas Bettcher, a World Health Organization director who spoke in Oslo on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day. “The tobacco industry’s nightmares are in fact lifesavers.”

Brand names will be allowed in New Zealand but regulations will standardize printing and placement, Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said. The regulations are expected to take effect after legislation is passed later this year, he added. 

New Zealand announced last week that the tax on tobacco will be increased by 10 percent each year for the next four years, driving the price for a standard pack of 20 cigarettes up to around NZ$30 ($20).

Norway will require cigarettes and snus -- a form of smokeless tobacco -- to be sold in dark green packs. Young people in the country have been smoking less though their use of snus has increased dramatically in the past decade, according to the government.

“It will look like the addictive and dangerous product it is,” Norwegian Health Minister Hoeie said. “We are moving toward a smoke-free generation. Someday tobacco will look as unbelievably outdated as smoking in airplanes.”

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