New Zealand AXES its world-first smoking ban aimed at stopping children from ever taking up the habit: Plan is ditched to fund tax cuts – weeks after Rishi Sunak announced similar move
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New Zealand has axed its world-first smoking ban aimed at stopping children from taking up the habit.

The move, to fund tax cuts, comes weeks after Rishi Sunak officially unveiled his bold plan to extinguish smoking in Britain.

The New Zealand legislation, brought in under the previous Jacinda Ardern-led government, would have banned the sale of cigarettes next year to anyone born after 2008. 

Under Sunak’s flagship proposal, which he himself labelled the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’, anyone born after 2009 will be banned from ever buying cigarettes.

If passed, it would annually raise the age at which people can purchase tobacco by one year, putting legal smoking out of reach of anyone aged under 14 today.

New Zealand's incoming conservative government has dismantled world-first plans to ban future generations of New Zealanders from being able to buy cigarettes (stock image)

New Zealand’s incoming conservative government has dismantled world-first plans to ban future generations of New Zealanders from being able to buy cigarettes (stock image)

Christopher Luxon was sworn in as New Zealand's prime minister on Monday. Luxon said the cigarette ban would create 'an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed'

Christopher Luxon was sworn in as New Zealand’s prime minister on Monday. Luxon said the cigarette ban would create ‘an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed’

Charities and experts have urged politicians to swiftly vote the bill into law, and not let the goal of turning Britain ‘smoke-free’ be snuffed out by pressure groups.

But conservative think-tanks branded Sunak’s plan an attack on people’s liberties and warned the ban — a replica of New Zealand’s — would only drive future smokers into the arms of the black market.

Charities and experts have urged politicians to swiftly vote the bill into law, and not let the goal of turning Britain ‘smoke-free’ be snuffed out by pressure groups.

But conservative think-tanks branded Sunak’s plan an attack on people’s liberties and warned the ban — a replica of New Zealand’s — would only drive future smokers into the arms of the black market.

One expert warned Sunak’s drive for a smoke-free generation could still go up in smoke.

Richard Murray, chief executive of health and care thinktank The King’s Fund, said: ‘Passing the smoking ban legislation would be a major milestone, and Government should then have the courage to implement the ban quickly.

‘Disappointingly, we have recently seen other measures to protect people from ill health, like banning junk food advertising to help tackle obesity, passed into law only for implementation to be delayed.’

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand and health experts have spoken out against the sudden U-turn.

Anti-smoking group Health Coalition Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand – said the policy backdown was 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 has said in a statement. 

Christopher Luxon was sworn in as New Zealand’s prime minister on Monday and said his top priority was to improve the economy.

The 53-year-old former businessman leads a conservative coalition after his National Party struck a deal on Friday with two smaller parties following a general election last month.  

Luxon said the cigarette ban would create ‘an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed’. 

The legislation, passed in 2022, had been praised around the world, and included measures such as lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes and restricting the number of outlets selling tobacco.

Modelling suggested that up to 5,000 lives could have been saved each year through the no smoking laws. 

Under Sunak's flagship proposal, which he himself labelled the 'biggest public health intervention in a generation', anyone born after 2009 will be banned from ever buying cigarettes (File Photo)

Under Sunak’s flagship proposal, which he himself labelled the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’, anyone born after 2009 will be banned from ever buying cigarettes (File Photo)

But owners of newsagents and corner shops criticised the loss of revenue from the Smokefree measures, even taking into account government subsidies.

The National party had not spoken of the Smokefree laws during campaigning for the election. 

The announcement that the government would repeal the laws was made by the new finance minister Nicola Willis on Saturday.   

Willis said the other parties in the coalition – the libertarian ACT and the populist New Zealand First – had been ‘insistent’ on bringing about the reversal.

Despite election victory, the centre-right National party has struggled for weeks in policy negotiations to form a government with the two minor parties.

The deal to form a government with the two minor parties was only agreed six weeks after the election, on Friday, with the government sworn in on Monday. 

New Zealand First had been the only party to campaign for repealing the smoking laws.



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