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New Zealand government to repeal world-first smoking laws

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Laws that would have gradually made cigarettes illegal in New Zealand will be scrapped, under the country's new government.
new zealand repeal smoking laws

Laws that would have gradually made cigarettes illegal in New Zealand will be scrapped, under the country’s new government.

Under legislation that passed last year, any person born after 2008 would have been barred from buying smoked tobacco products (from 2027).

However, after negotiations with minor parties, the incoming government says it will scrap the ban. The coalition hopes the repeal will fund tax cuts in other areas.

Smoking in New Zealand

About 8% of adults in New Zealand are daily smokers. Almost 20% of Māori adults are smokers.

The smoking ban was part of a multi-staged law aimed at reducing the smoking rate to under 5% by 2025. It also included a significant reduction in the number of retailers allowed to sell smoked tobacco.

The laws passed in 2022 with the backing of the former Labour Government. The laws did not receive support from the then-opposition, the National Party.

The repeal

Last month the Labour Government was defeated at the New Zealand election by the National Party. They are led by now-Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

National formed a coalition government with the NZ First and ACT parties.

Incoming Finance Minister Nicola Willis told NZ’s Newshub Nation on Saturday that NZ First and ACT were “insistent” on repealing the laws. The reversal of the cigarette ban was part of the deal to secure a majority of seats to form government.

Tax cuts

The National Party ran much of its election campaign on a commitment to ease cost-of-living pressures, including by reducing taxes.

The smoking laws were expected to cost the Government about $1 billion in lost tax revenue (because of the tax earned on cigarettes).

The National Party said it hopes repealing the laws means it can access more revenue to support financial relief for New Zealanders.

Advocates’ response

Health Coalition Aotearoa, which represents health groups and professionals across New Zealand, said repealing the laws would have the greatest impact on Māori people.

“This is a major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry — whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives.”

The laws haven’t been repealed yet. New legislation will likely be required to reverse the current laws.

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