Plain cigarette packaging has hit the shelves, and to cap off a busy week for fags the Government has announced another of its now-famous reviews into the tobacco tax.

The plain packaging, at least, is part of our ongoing war on tobacco. The theory is, the branding that tobacco warriors argue is all part of the so-called glamour of smoking, is stubbed out.

You have your horrific diseased lung pictures in their place, and we make the whole experience less and less palatable. The ultimate goal is to be smokefree by 2025 - and here's the problem: we are running out of time.

Not just that, we've hit a wall. And part of the reason we have not been more effective in this fight is driven by hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is the government earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax from fag sales, and they're loath to give it up.


The approach to become smokefree was well-intentioned and altruistic as so many of these things are. Helen Clark sort of championed the whole thing - but the real hero in my book was Tariana Turia, the former Maori Party co-leader, when she was in government. And this is another one of those political sadnesses around MMP and its fickle nature.

The Maori Party in government, actually did a lot of good work, good tangible work and earned genuine respect for being effective - fat lot of good it did them in the end.

But while in government, Tariana worked out tax was your greatest weapon and she worked that out because she's right. She argued for, and occasionally but not always got, massive increases in taxes.

She argued the back pocket was the key to kicking tobacco out of business. The more liberal talked about patches and help services and branding and packaging, and all of that's fine, but it was inevitably going to lead to where we are today: stuck.

Stuck with the hard core. The good news, I think ultimately, is that smoking in a country like ours will in fact die out with today's generation of kids.

Most kids these days aren't smokers. They might try it on at a party, think they're cool, but they've worked out it's a killer. And you see very, very, very few kids these days as regular smokers.

And if you ask them, it's ingrained in their upbringing that apart from anything it's for losers and it's uncool. Which, of course, is the opposite to what drove sales 50 or 60 years ago. But in the meantime, there remain about 15 per cent, maybe a bit more, who are not giving up and this latest move on packaging is not going to make one jot of difference.

Tariana was right then, she's right now, because an effective idea is always an effective idea. If we are to be smokefree in seven years, tax is your mechanism of traction.

Simply price them out of the market. But given it's the government that does that, where do they find the hundreds of millions in tax to fill the gap? So you wonder why they're not so keen on such an obvious idea.