National’s plan to repeal the smokefree laws introduced by Labour have made headlines all over the world, with many shocked that the country would go back on the “world-first” move.
New Zealand was set to become the first country in the world to ban smoking for the next generation. The policy, due to come into effect next year, would see anyone born after January 1, 2009 never being able to buy tobacco.
Now, the coalition government has announced it will repeal amendments to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 and regulations before March 2024, officially scrapping the world-first policy which had previously been lauded overseas and is even thought to have inspired a similar move brought on by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Finance Minister Nicola Willis has acknowledged money saved by the scrapping of the smokefree laws will be used to help fund tax cuts.
Speaking on TV3′s Newshub Nation over the weekend, she said: “We have to remember that the changes to smokefree legislation had a significant impact on the government books — with about a billion dollars there.”
‘Shock reversal’ - BBC
In the UK, the BBC referred to National’s announcement as a “shock reversal” and quoted experts that slammed the decision announced by the coalition government, with modelling suggesting the Smokefree laws could save up to 5000 lives each year.
“New Zealand’s laws were believed to have inspired the UK government in September to announce a similar smoking ban for young people. A spokeswoman said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s position remained unchanged after New Zealand’s reversal,” the BBC stated in the article.
‘Catastrophic for Māori communities’ - The Guardian
The Guardian also wrote about the law repeal, citing public health experts who describe it as “catastrophic for Māori communities.
“This move suggests a disregard for the voices of the communities most affected by tobacco harm – favouring economic interests,” said Hāpai te Hauora chief executive Jason Alexander, quoted by The Guardian.
The publication also quoted Professor Lisa Te Morenga, the chair of non-government industry group Health Coalition Aotearoa, who said “this is major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry – whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives”.
‘NZ has scrapped the world’s first generational smoking ban’ - Time
In the US, Time magazine wrote news of the repeal in New Zealand, pointing out that “critics and health ministers have called the plan a win for the tobacco industry.
“The ban was estimated to save up to 5000 lives annually, particularly among the nation’s Indigenous Māori community who record high daily smoking rates of 19.9 per cent. It would also have saved the country’s healthcare system $1.3 billion over the next 20 years, according to recent modelling,” the news magazine wrote.
‘New Zealand U-turns on smoking ban leaving health experts appalled and disgusted’ - Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror in the UK quotes health experts who say they are “appalled and disgusted” by the announcement from Luxon’s government.
“We are appalled and disgusted... this is an incredibly retrograde step on world-leading, absolutely excellent health measures. Most health groups in New Zealand are appalled by what the government’s done and are calling on them to backtrack,” said Professor Richard Edwards, a tobacco control researcher and public health expert at the University of Otago, speaking to the BBC and quoted by the Mirror.
‘Rollback would undo what’s been seen as a world model’ - NPR
NPR in the US says “the latest step in [New Zealand’s] ambitious plan to sharply reduce smoking is now in jeopardy due to political necessity.
“Prime Minister Chris Luxon was sworn in on Monday — and strict anti-smoking laws are set to become a casualty of the compromises required to form his new coalition government. If successful, the rollback would undo what’s been seen as a world model for tobacco policies.”
‘Immoral and embarrassing internationally’ - Sir Colin Tukuitonga
National’s announcement has received pushback from health experts all over New Zealand.
Leading Pasifika health expert Sir Collin Tukuitonga is the latest doctor to slam the new Government’s plans to repeal smokefree legislation — calling the move immoral and embarrassing internationally.
Tukuitonga told the New Zealand Herald he could not understand how government leaders could justify such a move, which he labelled as unethical — particularly as it would ultimately affect some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities.
“Guess what? Māori and Pacific people are going to pay for the price of tax cuts. It’s immoral and I think it’s totally unacceptable,” he said.
“We’re known globally as a trendsetter and leader of the pack when it comes to smokefree legislation — and here we are going backwards.”