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New Zealand All Set to Scrap World 1st Smoking Ban

The newly elected government of New Zealand has announced its intention to repeal the nation’s smoking ban, a policy introduced under the previous Jacinda Ardern-led administration.

New Zealand All Set to Scrap World 1st Smoking Ban

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The legislation, hailed as a global milestone aimed to ban cigarette sales to individuals born after 2008, with the goal of curbing smoking rates, preventing thousands of smoking related deaths, and making New Zealand a smoke free nation by 2025.

However, the new government, led by Prime Minister Chris Luxon, has justified the repeal as a means to fund tax cuts. The smoking ban passed in 2022 was designed to be an approach to tackle smoking related issues.

It included measures such as rising minimum smoking age, restrictions on the number of tobacco retailers, a reduction in the level of nicotine in cigarettes, and prohibition on selling cigarettes to anyone born after January 1, 2009.

New Zealand’s Smokefree laws had an impact beyond its borders, inspiring the United Kingdom to announce a similar smoking ban for young people.

The UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed to the ban, even after New Zealand’s reversal. The world had looked to New Zealand as a trailblazer in implementing bold public health measures to combat the leading cause of preventable deaths.

The reversal of the smoking ban has outrage among health experts, public health organizations, and researchers.

Prof Richard Edwards, a tobacco control researcher and public health expert at the University of Otago, described the government’s decision as appalling and disgusting. Other health professionals expressed these sentiments.

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The decision to repeal the smoking ban emerged as part of coalition negotiations between Luxon’s National Party and its coalition partners, the populist New Zealand First and libertarian Act parties.

While the National Party secured the largest share of votes in the October 14 election, the need for coalition support led to compromises, including the abandonment of flagship policies.

The timing of the announcement, six weeks after the election, and the involvement of coalition partners have raised questions about the political motivations behind the repeal.

One of the arguments put forth by the government particularly Prime Minister Chris Luxon, is the concern that a smoking ban would create a black market for tobacco.

Luxon addressed the potential for concentrated distribution in specific areas to become magnets for criminal activity.

Critics counter that such concerns should be addressed through law enforcement rather than abandoning a public health initiative.

The announcement of the smoking ban repeal has public backlash with many expressing disappointment and frustration.

Public health advocates anti-smoking groups, and citizens who supported the original legislation are urging the government to reconsider.

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The reversal goes against the expectations of those who believed that the Smokefree laws would remain untouched, given their positive impact on health outcomes.

Smoking rates and associated health issues are disproportionately higher among New Zealand’s indigenous Māori population.

Experts had highlighted that the smoking ban could have a positive impact on Māori health. The reversal has been labeled as catastrophic for Māori communities by Hāpai Te Hauora, a national Māori health organization.

Public health modeling conducted in 2022 projected healthcare savings over the next 20 years if the Smokefree laws were fully implemented.

The estimated savings of NZ$1.3 billion in health system costs underscore the long-term benefits of the original legislation. Critics argue that short-term financial considerations over these savings is a myopic approach.

The government has stated its continued commitment to reducing the national smoking rate to 5% by 2025, with the goal of complete elimination.

The effectiveness of alternative measures such as education and awareness campaigns, remains to be seen, especially in the absence of the Smokefree laws.

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