New Zealand Ditches Smoking Ban Law, Thousands of Lives at Stake
2009-born individuals become adults in 2027; cigarette sales permanently banned for them
No initiative to reduce tobacco retailer numbers
New Zealand: Youth e-cigarette use dramatically risen in the past 5 years
‘Smoking Generation Ban’ abolished for tax reduction funding
New Zealand, a country at the forefront of global efforts to implement anti-smoking policies, is generating controversy. Following last month’s general election, the newly elected conservative government plans to abolish the “world-first tobacco law.” The previous government has enforced this law.
Authorities will permanently ban the sale of cigarettes to those born after January 1, 2009. It will be taking effect in July 2024.
In 2022, Vietnam passed a pioneering law that steadily increased the smoking age. This is to prevent people born after January 2009 from legally purchasing cigarettes. Authorities established this law to avoid thousands of smoking-related deaths and save billions of dollars in the healthcare system.
Many believe that the UK’s plan to phase out smoking for future generations gradually inspired this bill, which includes many other measures to make smoking less affordable and accessible. It includes drastically reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products, allowing sales only through specialized tobacco shops, and reducing the number of stores legally allowed to sell cigarettes nationwide from 6,000 to 600.
New Zealand plans to act as if the previous government’s decision to reduce the number of stores selling cigarettes from 2024 never happened. In addition, while the previous administration had planned to allow only the sale of cigarettes containing very little nicotine from 2025, the new government aims to complete the amendment of the relevant law by March of next year.
Meanwhile, it was reported that New Zealand’s smoking rate dropped to a record low of 8% in 2022, down from 9.4% the previous year. However, the number of teenagers vaping in New Zealand has dramatically increased over the past five years. According to data released last year, the increase in daily vape users in New Zealand was more significant than the decrease in daily smokers.
Taking thousands of lives and being ‘catastrophic’ to the Maori community
According to The Guardian on the 27th, public health authorities say that these measures will take thousands of lives and be ‘catastrophic’ to the Maori community.
The new government plans to abolish the smoking ban law, considered one of the best in the world, to pay for tax cuts. Nicola Willis, the new finance minister, announced on Saturday that the government would abolish this measure before March 2024 and use the revenue from cigarette sales for the coalition’s tax cuts.
She revealed on New Zealand media Newshub Nation that reducing the number and scope of stores that can sell tobacco products would significantly reduce the king’s income.
“Remembering that the changes to the smoking bill have had a significant impact on government books, with an additional revenue and other savings area that will help fund tax cuts, of about $1 billion.”
Willis said the coalition partners Act and New Zealand First were ‘obsessed’ with reversing the restrictions.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the reversal would prevent a hidden cigarette market from emerging and prevent stores from becoming crime targets. He also said that the government would continue to lower the smoking rate through education and other smoking policies.
It is a significant loss for public health and a big win for the tobacco industry.
However, public health experts have expressed shock at the policy reversal, saying that it could take up to 5,000 lives annually and could be particularly harmful to the Maori, who have a high smoking rate.
Professor Lisa Te Morenga of the non-governmental industry group Health Coalition Aotearoa said, “This is a big loss for public health and a big win for the tobacco industry. She emphasized that recent modeling shows this regulation, if fully implemented, will save $1.3 billion in healthcare system costs over the next 20 years and reduce mortality by 22% for women and 9% for men while the tobacco industry increases its profits at the expense of lives.
By. Kim Yoo Jeong