New Zealand's incoming government scraps world-first smoking ban

New Zealand's new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Credit: AP

New Zealand's new government has announced it is scrapping the smoking ban which was celebrated worldwide when it was revealed by the previous administration last year.

Opposition politicians and healthcare specialists in the country have reacted with shock to the announcement which was not part of the National Party's manifesto.

The National Party emerged as the largest party in last month's election with 38% of the vote and its leader Christopher Luxon was sworn in as prime minister on Monday after reaching a coalition agreement with two smaller parties.

The law would have banned anyone born after 2008 from buying a cigarette. It also heavily restricted the sale of tobacco to anyone born before then.

Earlier this year Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a similar policy, despite some upset from his backbenches.

The British policy will mean anyone born after January 1, 2009 – in effect anyone who is 14 or younger now – will not legally be able to buy cigarettes in England during their lives, as the smoking age is raised by one year every year, meaning they will never catch up.

Christopher Luxon, centre, with his coalition partners, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, right, and ACT leader David Seymour. Credit: AP

The policy, which Mr Sunak has said will be a free vote for Tory MPs, is now the only one of its kind in the world after New Zealand scrapped it.

In the wake of the announcement, No 10 said their policy remains "unchanged."

Several other nations are believed to be considering similar pieces of legislation.

New Zealand's new Finance Minister Nicola Willis announced the government had ditched the policy and said their coalition partners New Zealand First and ACT New Zealand had been insistent in their negotiations with the National Party on scrapping it.

Many on the right of New Zealand's politics had spoken against the policy saying it would lose tax revenue for the government, impact small businesses like newsagents and reduce choices for Kiwis.

Ms Willis told New Zealand broadcaster TV3's Newshub Nation the smoking ban would have cost around 1bn NZ$ (£0.48m).

The policy was originally bought in under Jacinda Ardern. Credit: AP

Critics of the new government have pointed out the government was expected to save money from health-related spending due to the phasing out of smoking.

Mr Luxon said his government disagreed with parts of the policy, including concentrating distribution. He said smoking rates had been coming down for 30 years.

“We will continue to make sure we have good education programs and encourage people to take up vapes as a cessation tool," Mr Luxon said.

Speaking to RNZ he said: "The issue is the component parts of the programme, how does it ultimately get enforced? A 36-year-old can smoke, but a 35-year-old can't smoke down the road? That doesn't sort of make a lot of sense."

He argued the policy would create a black market for cigarettes.

But critics said the plan was a setback for public health and a win for the tobacco industry.

Aside from the smoking ban Mr Luxon has promised to deliver tax cuts, stimulate New Zealand's flagging economy and cut government departments.

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