New Zealand’s incoming conservative government will abandon anti-smoking laws, new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon revealed Monday, in a decision health advocates hailed as a “huge win for the tobacco industry.”
The so-called “generational smoking ban,” announced by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, aims to prevent the sale of cigarettes to anybody born after 2008.
A suite of nearly comparable measures, lauded by public health professionals and anti-smoking groups, was recently revealed in the United Kingdom.
However, after being sworn in on Monday, Luxon indicated that New Zealand would repeal the anti-smoking laws before they went into effect, citing concerns about a thriving illicit market.
Luxon acknowledged that ongoing cigarette sales would bring good cash for the government, but emphasized that this was “not the motivation for doing it.”
The policy reversal, according to the anti-smoking group Health Coalition Aotearoa (the Maori term for New Zealand), is an insult to 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 group said in a statement.
The cigarette prohibition, according to Luxon, would offer “an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed.”
The regulation, which is set to go into effect later this year, is intended to lower the number of persons who use tobacco products very immediately.
While the number of adults who smoke in New Zealand is currently quite low, at around 8%, the previous government envisioned a future in which the country would be fully smoke-free.
In addition to the constantly growing age limit, the proposed law would have reduced the number of outlets permitted to sell tobacco products to a maximum of 600 nationally, a substantial reduction from the existing level of 6,000.
Rishi Sunak’s new anti-smoking laws
Meanwhile, the UK government is ready to enact a historic new anti-smoking laws that will prohibit children under the age of 14 from ever being legally sold cigarettes in England, in an effort to establish the first’smoke free generation‘.
Proposed new legislation will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, effectively raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the entire population. This has the potential to eliminate smoking in young people virtually entirely by 2040.
Smoking is extremely addictive, with four out of every five smokers beginning before the age of 20 and remaining addicted for the remainder of their lives. By preventing young kids from ever starting to smoke, the government will shield an entire generation of young people from the long-term effects of smoking.
Smoking is the UK’s top preventable killer, accounting for one in every four cancer deaths and accounting for 64,000 deaths in England each year. It places a significant strain on the NHS, with nearly one hospital admission per minute linked to smoking and up to 75,000 GP consultations taken up each month by smoking-related sickness.
It is also one of the leading causes of health disparities across the country, with smoking-related deaths more than twice as common in the most poor local authorities, where more people smoke, as in the most affluent. Pregnancy smoking rates vary greatly, with as many as 20% of pregnant women smoking in some parts of the country, raising the risk of stillbirth by over 50%.
Smoking also costs the economy £17 billion each year in lost earnings, unemployment, premature deaths, and NHS bills.
These measures represent the government’s most important public health action in a generation. If the government does nothing, an independent analysis issued in 2022 predicted that approximately 500,000 people would die from smoking by 2030.
More broadly, it is predicted that up to 1.7 million fewer individuals will smoke by 2075, saving tens of thousands of lives, saving billions of pounds for the health and care systems, and benefiting the economy by up to £85 billion. It would also prevent up to 115,000 strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, and other lung disorders.
Smoking will not be criminalized, and our staged approach ensures that everybody who can lawfully buy cigarettes now will be able to do so in the future.