National & International

New Zealand’s Smoke Signals: Government Swaps Smokes for Jokes, Plans Tax Cuts Instead

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New Zealand’s New Government Plans to Ditch Smoking Ban for Tax Cuts.

New Zealand’s incoming government has announced its intention to abandon the nation’s ground-breaking smoking ban, citing the need for tax cuts. The legislation, initially introduced by the previous Jacinda Ardern-led government, aimed to prohibit cigarette sales to individuals born after 2008, with implementation scheduled for the coming year.

Smoking, a leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, prompted the introduction of the policy to prevent young generations from adopting the habit. However, the sudden reversal has drawn strong criticism from health experts.

Professor Richard Edwards, a tobacco control researcher and public health expert at the University of Otago, expressed deep concern, stating, “We are appalled and disgusted… this is an incredibly retrograde step on world-leading, absolutely excellent health measures.” He emphasized that many health groups in New Zealand are urging the government to reconsider.

The legislation passed last year received international acclaim, with research models supporting its key reforms. These measures included restricting the number of tobacco retailers and reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes. Modeling had indicated that the smoke-free laws could potentially save up to 5,000 lives annually.

New Zealand’s laws were thought to have influenced the UK government’s decision in September to announce a similar smoking ban for young people. A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that his position remains unchanged despite New Zealand’s reversal.

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