New Zealand’s New Conservative Government Drops Smoking Ban

( – The newly elected right-wing government of New Zealand has announced its intention to repeal a law initiated by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The law, implemented earlier this year and hailed as a potential example for other countries, aimed to gradually phase out all cigarette sales in the country over several decades.

Starting from January 1, 2027, the law is set to prohibit the sale of tobacco products for individuals born on or after January 1, 2009. The government had intended to incrementally raise the smoking age each year until it covered everyone. However, as outlined in agreements among the three coalition partners published last week, the newly formed government has announced its plan to repeal the law without providing a specific reason.

The newly appointed finance minister, Nicola Willis, has raised objections to the Ardern administration’s proposals to limit the sale of tobacco and reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes. She worries that these actions could lead to a significant black market for tobacco.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Ms. Willis explained, “While we aim to reduce smoking rates, we believe the previous government’s strategy may not be the most effective way to achieve this goal.” In November 2022, the past government stated that about 8 percent of New Zealanders smoked daily.

The current New Zealand government, viewed as the most right-wing in a generation, is facing demands to fulfill its campaign pledge of tax cuts. Initially, the plan was to fund these cuts by taxing foreign property buyers, but this proposal has yet to be dropped. Analysts are now still determining how the government intends to compensate for the lost revenue resulting from these tax cuts.

Last week, Ms. Willis told Newshub Nation that the government can still collect tax revenue from tobacco products if the smoking ban is lifted. This, in turn, would help fund other tax cuts.

Critics, including health advocates and policy experts, argue that eliminating the law would be a mistake. They emphasize that preventing new generations of young people from smoking would save the government money in the long run.

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