Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia believes that stripping cigarette packs of their branding will be a major step towards changing the way tobacco is perceived by young people.

The Associate Health Minister said plain packaging on cigarettes had been proven to be successful in Australia in deterring teenagers from smoking.

"The more that we can intervene with a suite of initiatives, that in the end I believe that young people will start to look at tobacco differently."

Cabinet has agreed in principle to introduce a plain packaging regime similar to Australia, subject to the outcome of a New Zealand public consultation process to be carried out later this year.


The move comes as Australian tobacco companies attempt to have precedent-setting plain packaging laws overturned.

New Zealand legal experts believe New Zealand could face similar legal pressure if it adopts plain packaging rules.

Ms Turia said the Australian legal case could delay, but not undermine, the process of changing packaging in New Zealand.

"We shouldn't be allowing tobacco companies to determine our domestic law. Our interest is not in profit, it is in the health and well-being of our communities."

Tobacco companies in New Zealand have argued that plain packaging had implications for intellectual property rights, and could affect international trade agreements.

Ms Turia responded: "My understanding is that the arrangements that this Government had won't be affected in those trade agreements should the tobacco companies decide to take that as an issue to court."

She rejected claims from the tobacco industry that plain packaging would encourage a black market in cigarettes.

"It's off the mark. Australia has already dealt with that in their country. We don't believe that we will have any significant issues here in New Zealand."