New Zealand is unlikely to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes before trade challenges to Australian legislation are settled, Prime Minister John Key says.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said today that the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Products and Packaging) Amendment Bill had been lodged with the Clerk of the House.
The legislation was expected to have its first reading in the House early next year before being sent to a parliamentary select committee.
Australia introduced plain packaging on December 1 last year, having successfully defended the legislation from a court challenge brought by the world's major tobacco companies, but the battle against the measure continues.
Turia said Australia faced World Trade Organisation challenges against plain packaging from Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia.
Key said that while the legislation would be introduced next year, it would almost certainly not be passed until the outcome of the challenge to Australia was known.
"It will almost certainly be introduced, have its first reading, then go off to the select committee," he said.
"But it's very, very unlikely it will be passed. In fact, in my view it shouldn't be passed until we've actually had a ruling out of Australia.
"We think it's prudent to wait till we see a ruling out of Australia. If there's a successful legal challenge out of Australia, that would guide us how legislation might be drafted in New Zealand."
This is nothing more than a sensible, cost-saving position to take. It remains to be seen whether near-bankrupt Ireland also comes to its senses.