New Zealand repeals landmark anti-smoking law

New Zealand repeals landmark anti-smoking law

Health advocates condemn government's move to scrap radical curbs passed by predecessor

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

New Zealand has repealed landmark tobacco legislation that would have made it illegal for people born after Jan 1, 2009 to buy cigarettes.

The move, initiated on Wednesday night by the centre-right government of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, also means there will be no cut in the nicotine content of cigarettes or reduction in the number of outlets able to sell tobacco.

The measures, introduced by the former Labour Party government, took effect in January 2023 but they had yet to be implemented.

Defending the government move, which has been condemned by health experts, Associate Health Minister Casey Costello told parliament that the government was not stopping other efforts to help reduce smoking rates.

“This government is committed to the Smokefree 2025 goal, but we are taking a different regulatory approach to reducing smoking rates and the harm from smoking,” Costello said at the bill’s first reading, referring to the country’s goal of reducing smoking rates to less than 5% of the population by 2025.

The laws proposed by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2022 had received international acclaim, and were thought to have inspired a similar smoking ban plan for young generations announced by the British government last year, according to reports by the British Broadcasting Corp.

But Luxon’s government — a coalition between his centre-right National Party, the right-wing ACT party and the populist New Zealand First — has moved to repeal several policies put forward by Ardern and her successor Chris Hipkins since taking office in November last year.

The policies include winding back the use of the indigenous Maori language in government departments, and scrapping “co-governance”, or shared decision-making and management between Maori and government representatives in the delivery of public services.

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