KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 – New Zealand’s new coalition government has announced plans to abolish smoking laws that banned cigarettes and other tobacco products for future generations born from 2009.
New Zealand media reported that the agreement signed today by New Zealand’s centre-right National Party with the classically liberal ACT and populist New Zealand First (NCF) parties to form a coalition government – some six weeks after the country’s general elections – committed to a repeal of amendments to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 and regulations before March 2024.
The amendments passed by the previous New Zealand Parliament just a year ago in December 2022 – which the new government now plans to abolish – limited nicotine levels in cigarettes and, from the start of this year, reduced the number of retail outlets that could sell tobacco products, besides prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and smoked tobacco products to those born on or after January 1, 2009.
However, the coalition government also plans to ban disposable vapes and increase penalties for illegal sales to those aged under 18.
New Zealand is believed to be the first country in the world to impose a generational ban on smoking through a steadily rising smoking age – before the new coalition government’s plans to end the prohibition early next year.
Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) – an advocacy group that fights to reduce harm from tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy food, and public health equity – condemned the new coalition government’s plans to repeal the country’s smoke-free laws, including the de-nicotisation of cigarettes, a reduction in retailers, and banning cigarettes for the next generation.
“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,” HCA said in a statement.
Former New Zealand Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall similarly criticised the National-ACT-NZF government’s plans to repeal the smoke-free laws.
“Repealing smokefree laws will mean thousands of deaths and billions of health costs. Shane Reti said he supported 2/3 smokefree reforms but now he is scrapping the lot. Way to start being health minister — by caving into the tobacco industry,” Dr Verrall posted on X.
Coincidentally, Malaysia’s Cabinet today also approved revisions to the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 that decoupled the generational end game (GEG) ban from the tobacco and vape control bill.
Malaysia’s GEG proposal – which bans tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007 – was modelled after New Zealand’s generational tobacco ban when former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in the Ismail Sabri Yaakob government brought it to Parliament last year.
The move to drop the GEG from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill – which may be tabled in Parliament next week in the final week of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting – was made by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government, after Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh described the generational tobacco ban as unconstitutional.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last month plans to ban the sale of cigarettes to those born from 2009, but it is unclear if the proposal, which will be subject to a free vote in Parliament, can get support from MPs.
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has slammed the proposed generational tobacco ban as “barmy”.
“Surely to goodness we have learned from the whole experience of Covid that we should not lightly criminalise everyday features of our lives. If the argument is that we must ban smoking for public health reasons, then what about obesity — now an even bigger killer? Are we going to ban sugar? Where does it end? What about booze?” Johnson wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Mail.