Christopher Luxon, who took office as prime minister on Monday, said that New Zealand will scrap its intentions to enact the strongest anti-smoking legislation in the world before they are implemented. The health advocates have called the action a “huge win for the tobacco industry.”
Former airline CEO Luxon took up the role six weeks after his conservative National Party won the national elections and ousted Jacinda Ardern’s six-year Labour Party administration.
The 53-year-old Luxon said that although the government would profit from the continued sales of cigarettes, this was “not the motivation for doing it.”
A cigarette ban would “create an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed,” said Luxon. The legislation’s immediate purpose was to lower the number of people using tobacco products. It will go into effect later this year.
Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern proposed the “generational smoking ban,” which forbids the sale of cigarettes to anybody who was born after 2008. Proponents of quitting smoking and public health specialists applauded the action. According to news agency AFP, a set of almost similar regulations was recently unveiled in the United Kingdom.
While the percentage of smokers in New Zealand may be as low as 8%, the previous administration, headed by Jacinda Ardern, had aspirations of making the nation smoke-free in the future.
The proposed regulation would have significantly decreased the number of agents permitted to sell tobacco products in the nation—from the current 6,000 to just 600—in addition to progressively raising the age restriction.
However, opponents of smoking and medical professionals criticized Luxon’s decision, calling it a national embarrassment. “The tobacco industry stands to gain greatly from this, as their profits will increase at the cost of Kiwi lives,” a statement from the Health Coalition Aotearoa—the Maori term for New Zealand—read.