Last year, New Zealand became the first country in the world to ban smoking for the next generation. As per the policy, anyone born after 1 January 2009 would not be able to buy any tobacco ever. The ban would have come into effect next year.
The legislation passed last year by the liberal government aimed to prevent thousands of smoking-related deaths and save thousands of dollars in the healthcare system.
New Zealand’s new finance minister, Nicola Willis, said on Saturday that the measures will be eliminated from March next year and the revenue from cigarette sales will be directed towards the coalition’s tax cuts.
“Coming back to those extra sources of revenue and other savings areas that will help us to fund the tax reduction, we have to remember that the changes to the smoke-free legislation had a significant impact on the government books – with about $1bn there,” she said.
“Concentrating the distribution of cigarettes in one store in one small town is going to be a massive magnet for crime,” Mr Luxon told Radio New Zealand.
However, public health officials in New Zealand say that the reversal would put thousands of lives at risk and be especially damaging to the Maori communities who have higher smoking rates.
“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,” Professor Lisa Te Morenga, chair of the non-government group Health Coalition Aotearoa, told the Guardian.
Other health groups in the country also criticised the government’s move. Prof Richard Edwards, a public health expert at the University of Otago, told the BBC: “We are appalled and disgusted. This is an incredibly retrograde step on world-leading, absolutely excellent health measures.
“Most health groups in New Zealand are appalled by what the government’s done and are calling on them to backtrack.”