New Zealand's new government has just taken office and has already caused an outcry among health experts. Reason: Shortly after being sworn in on Monday, conservative Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced that he wanted to overturn parts of the previous left-wing government's drastic anti-tobacco laws.
The coalition, which also includes the populist NZ First party, wants to use the move to finance tax cuts. Advocates for a smoke-free society are horrified.
At the end of last year, the Pacific state, under the leadership of Labor leader Jacinda Ardern, passed a groundbreaking law banning smoking for people born after 2009. Tobacco may no longer 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 are 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.
Great Britain recently announced that it would like to follow New Zealand's example and make future generations "smoke-free". The British BBC spoke of a “shocking turnaround” in the Commonwealth country.
Maori particularly affected
National Maori health organization Hāpai Te Hauora called on the new government to reconsider repealing the laws. New Zealand is recognized internationally as a model for its pioneering efforts to curb tobacco consumption, said interim chief executive Jason Alexander.
"We cannot allow our most vulnerable to pay the price of tax cuts to satisfy our country's wealthiest and line their pockets." New Zealand's indigenous people have a higher smoking rate than the rest of the population and are particularly prone to tobacco-related illnesses.
The New Zealand Asthma and Respiratory Foundation also condemned the announcement. "This move not only undermines the progress we have made as a country in protecting respiratory health, but also places greater strain on our healthcare system," the foundation said. Luxon's National Party said it would remain committed to reducing smoking rates and keep all other rules in place.
Australia, meanwhile, announced a timeline for its "vaping crackdown" announced in May. In a first step, the import of disposable e-cigarettes into Australia will be banned from the beginning of 2024. Later, among other things, flavors will be limited and the maximum permissible nicotine content reduced.