Health: But no smoking ban: New Zealand overturns anti-tobacco law

New Zealand's conservative government has overturned the previous left-wing government's drastic anti-tobacco laws, to the dismay of health experts.

Health: But no smoking ban: New Zealand overturns anti-tobacco law

New Zealand's conservative government has overturned the previous left-wing government's drastic anti-tobacco laws, to the dismay of health experts. The coalition led by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon repealed the legislative package in an urgent procedure on Thursday night (local time), as a government spokesman confirmed to the German Press Agency. This was preceded by a heated parliamentary debate.

The government, which also includes the populist NZ First party, announced a corresponding plan shortly after taking office last November. With this step, among other things, she wants to finance promised tax cuts.

Government against “prohibitionist” approach

Under the leadership of Labor leader Jacinda Ardern, the Pacific state passed a groundbreaking law banning smoking for people born after 2009 at the end of 2022. Tobacco would no longer have been allowed to be sold to them for life. This means that young people should no longer be tempted to start smoking.

A reduction in the nicotine content in cigarettes and a smaller number of tobacco sales outlets were also anchored in the law. The country should be largely smoke-free by 2025. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand. The laws were due to come into force gradually from July this year.

"New Zealand has seen the largest decline in smoking rates in the world in recent years and we want to build on the practical tools and approaches that have worked so far," said Deputy Health Minister Casey Costello. The government remains committed to making the country smoke-free. But the Labor government took a "prohibitionist" approach that ignored how well smoking cessation initiatives worked.

Researchers react outraged

Researchers from the University of Otago's ASPIRE Aotearoa Research Center described the repeal of the laws as "shameful". Scientists should help implement the Labor government's goals. Now thousands of unnecessary deaths remain at risk each year, particularly among Maori, said co-director Andrew Waa. New Zealand's indigenous people have a higher smoking rate than the rest of the population and are particularly prone to tobacco-related illnesses. Waa stressed that recent opinion polls have also shown strong public support for the laws.

"The tobacco industry will celebrate its victory for getting the government's coalition parties, all of whom have close ties to the industry, to push through their agenda," said the non-governmental organization Health Coalition Aotearoa. "It is completely irresponsible to put the profits of the tobacco industry above the health of New Zealanders."

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