Local health officials are hoping the Government's decision to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes will deter youth from taking up smoking.
Yesterday, Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia announced that the Government would push ahead with its plans, despite the threat of legal challenges similar to ones Australia has faced since introducing unbranded, standardised cigarette packets with large health warnings.
Jan Keown, from the Oamaru Hospital's Smoking Cessation Programme, said it was great news.
Mrs Keown made a number of submissions towards the Government's plan.
``It will reduce the number of young people taking it up and that's got to be positive,'' she said.
North Otago Asthma Society field worker Debbie Huls said the decision was a step in the right direction.
``I would promote anything the Government can do to help with that,'' said Mrs Huls, who is also the Stroke Foundation field officer.
The Oamaru Mail hit the streets yesterday afternoon to speak with locals following the announcement.
Kakanui's Toni Laing, who is a smoker, disagreed with the Government's decision.
``I think the tobacco industry has the right to market their product,'' she said.
``It's not illegal. It's an adult's decision.''
However, three other people who spoke to the Oamaru Mail were in full support of the move.
``It is a good move but I'm not sure it will work _ not when people are desperate for a fag,'' said Noelene Harris.
Annie Hampstead and Ron Chave both agreed that anything the Government can do to decrease the number of smokers was a positive outcome.
Mrs Turia said the Health Ministry would begin policy work around the plans immediately.
Regulations to implement plain packaging would occur once World Trade Organisation legal challenges were concluded.
Mrs Turia said she expected the WTO case to be completed within 12 to 18 months.
``It won't take years and years. We know that we've got trade obligations and we take them seriously ... but we are confident that plain packaging can be introduced consistently with those obligations,'' she said.
New Zealanders could expect plain cigarette packs on shelves next year.
Any legal challenge could cost between $3 million and $6 million of taxpayer money to defend.
Mrs Turia described the decision to proceed with plain packaging as ``a great day for New Zealand``.
``The move to plain packaging would make more explicit what tobacco is - a product which kills 5000 New Zealanders a year,'' she said.
``[It] will remove the last remaining vestige of glamour from these deadly products.''
Public Health South team leader Anne McSoriley said they are pleased with the Government's decision.
``The decision on plain cigarette packaging is a really good outcome.
``It is great that tobacco companies will no longer be able to promote cigarettes like it is an everyday product, when tobacco does so much harm in our communities,'' she said.