Two University of Otago studies show most people support plain packaging for tobacco products, but cigarette giants are pushing ahead with their plans to fight the move.
University of Otago researcher Professor Janet Hoek surveyed 418 smokers and 418 non-smokers in New Zealand in March this year.
Findings released today show just 20% of those surveyed believed plain packaging is unfair on tobacco companies, while 36% said plain packaging would encourage smokers to try to quit.
Meanwhile, 56% thought attractive packaging encourages young people to take up the habit.
"I guess we were a bit surprised that support is already at such a high level and I think that should be a great comfort to policy makers," Hoek said.
The study also found smokers are more likely to oppose plain packaging than non-smokers, but even those who do light up agree that all tobacco packaging should come with large warnings.
The findings will not stop tobacco giants opposing the legislation.
Steve Rush, British American Tobacco New Zealand general manager, said packaging is not a key reason why people decide to smoke or quit smoking and the key influences are family, peer pressure and risk taking.
"We believe that this piece of regulation will actually have the opposite impact - by more tightly regulating the legal market you'll increase the opportunity for the black market and that will increase affordability and you'll see consumption go up."
The second study, published recently in BMC Public Health, found tobacco packaging communicated very powerful brand identities to young adult smokers and non-smokers. Smokers and non-smokers alike were able to identify clear brand personalities for both familiar and unfamiliar cigarette brands.
"Findings from these studies show that current cigarette packaging acts as advertising and tell us that New Zealand must implement plain packaging if it is to eliminate tobacco marketing and meet its FCTC obligations," Hoek said.
"The studies also show exceptional public support for this measure. Plain packaging would be both a logical and popular next step towards achieving a smokefree New Zealand by 2025," she says.
Public submissions on the plain packaging proposal closed on Friday.