New Zealand’s government draws flak for repealing anti-tobacco law

Sydney, Australia, Nov 27 (EFE).- Health associations criticized New Zealand’s new government on Monday for its decision to scrap an ambitious anti-tobacco law to ban smoking for future generations starting in 2027.

The coalition government, which assumed office on Monday, is rolling back the smoke-free legislation to help fund tax cuts.

The 2022-approved legislation stipulated that individuals turning 18 in 2027 and beyond would be prohibited from legally purchasing tobacco in New Zealand.

“Our communities have spoken out unequivocally against the control that tobacco companies have over their wellbeing and the future of their whanau (families),” Public Health Organisation, Hapai Te Hauora, said in a statement.

“This action disregards these community voices in order to raise revenue to pay for tax cuts for Aotearoa’s (New Zealand’s) most wealthy.”

The advocacy body said that the proposed rollback would be “an unconscionable blow” to the health and well-being of all New Zealanders, undermining the “hard-won progress” in reducing smoking rates.

“We urge the government to reconsider these regressive proposals. By maintaining and strengthening tobacco control measures, New Zealand can continue to serve as a global leader for effective public health policy while minimizing future harm against our people,” Jason Alexander, the organization’s interim CEO, said in the statement.

According to Health officials, smoking was the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, and the anti-tobacco law could save up to 5,000 lives annually.

The law was enacted in 2022 by the Labor government, which lost power in the October elections despite opposition from parties such as the National Party and the liberal-right Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (ACT).

After winning the elections, the National Party formed a coalition government with the ACT and the nationalist New Zealand First Party.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis announced on Saturday that the new government would repeal the anti-tobacco law, fulfilling pre-election promises made by ACT and New Zealand First, citing the need to fund tax cuts.

“The suggestion that tax cuts would be paid by people who continue to smoke is absolutely shocking,” Robert Beaglehole, chair of Smokefree New Zealand, told local media.

According to the Ministry of Health, the anti-tobacco legislation could potentially save the healthcare system up to $3 billion over the next 20 years in treating tobacco-related diseases, including cancer and heart attacks. EFE


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