New Zealand’s plans for world-leading anti-smoking laws are to be revoked, Christopher Luxon confirmed yesterday after being sworn in as prime minister, in a move described as a “huge win for the tobacco industry.”
Former airline boss Luxon took over six weeks after his conservative National Party won national elections, ending a six-year Labour Party reign ushered in by former prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Luxon, 53, was sworn in as head of a new coalition government by New Zealand Governor-General Cindy Kiro in a ceremony in the capital, Wellington.
Photo: AP / New Zealand Herald
“It is an honor and an awesome responsibility,” Luxon told reporters.
The conservative said he would prioritize taming inflation and bringing down interest rates, and also confirmed he would scrap a so-called “generational smoking ban” adopted last year that stops sales of tobacco to anyone born after 2008.
Luxon said the tax revenue from ongoing cigarette sales would generate welcome income for the government, but also voiced concern that the ban would create a flourishing — and untaxed — black market.
The move was criticized by anti-smoking groups as a step back for the country.
“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 Health Coalition Aotearoa — the Maori name for New Zealand — said in a statement.
The anti-smoking legislation, scheduled to start later this year, was designed to almost immediately reduce the number of people using tobacco products. While the number of adults smoking in New Zealand is relatively low at just 8 percent, the previous government had envisioned a future where the country was completely smoke-free.
As well as the steadily increasing age limit, the new law would have slashed the number of retailers able to sell tobacco products to a maximum of just 600 nationwide, a massive drop from the current 6,000.
Originally unveiled by then-prime minister Ardern and praised by public health experts and anti-smoking advocates, a suite of near-identical measures were recently announced in the UK.
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