Not a year has passed since Wellington approved a rule that, in its application, ended up forever banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008. Now, the arrival of a Conservative government annuls the decision.
This appears to have been the priority of new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon: he took office today, and it emerged today that New Zealand’s acclaimed smoke-free law would be repealed. With a new conservative coalition government, after six years with the Labor Party at the head of the Oceanian country, the project to end smoking has died down.
This, explains the new government, is because the smoking ban has affected the entry of taxes into the tax coffers. The rule, initially applauded by medical experts, had sparked opposition from unions such as kiosk and retail store owners.
The announcement of the revocation, made by the new Minister of the Economy Nicola Willis, caused emotion, since at no time during the campaign was there any mention of the anti-smoking law.
The anti-smoking law was introduced in December last year by the Jacinda Ardern government and its aim was to completely ban the purchase and consumption of tobacco for the generation that will turn 18 in 2025. Increase each year the age necessary to buy cigarettes, No New Zealander born after 2008 would be able to access cigarettes or tobacco, at least in their country.
Another of the measures contained in the law was to reduce the authorized quantity of nicotine in a cigarette or tobacco product, take it to very low levels. Funding for health establishments working in the field of addictions has also been increased.
The rule also limited the number of licenses to sell tobacco, so that of the 8,000 stalls that exist in New Zealand today, only 500 would remain, and that’s in a country of five million people. . “We want to make sure that no one among our young people starts smoking. » said the oceanic country’s then health minister, Dr Ayesha Verrall. According to public health models in the ocean country, the anti-smoking law could save up to 5,000 lives a year.
As one of the least smoking countries in the world, New Zealand wanted to become a completely tobacco-free country. However, the new coalition government’s proposal cancels, at least, total restriction for people born since 2008. So, in 2025, when they turn 18, they will be able to buy cigarettes.
The new Prime Minister, Chris Luxon, justified this step by saying that the ban would lead to “towards a black tobacco market.” Despite this, during the campaign preceding the October 14 elections, his center-right National party made no mention of anti-smoking laws. It is believed that the decision, in this case, would depend on the alliances reached with two minority parties to form a government.
According to Willis, the economy minister, both government partners, the populist New Zealand First and the Libertarian Act, had insisted on repealing the legislation. Likewise, this was justified by ensuring that the loss of taxes paid by cigarette producers and sellers was enormous: “It should be remembered that changes to smoke-free legislation have had a significant impact on the government’s accounts, amounting to almost $1 billion. »
Speaking to the BBC, public health expert Richard Edwards said: “We are shocked and disgusted… This is an incredibly retrograde step compared to the excellent health measures that are being pioneered around the world. “Most health groups in New Zealand are appalled by the government’s actions and are calling on the government to reverse course. »
Professor Emeritus Robert Beaglehole, President of Action for Smokefree 2025, said: “The idea that tax cuts should be paid for by people who continue to smoke is absolutely shocking. The government is ignoring public opinion and, obviously, the vast majority of people who work in this field, health professionals, doctors and nurses.”