New Zealand: New government torpedoes tobacco control just as it arrives

It was the most innovative anti-smoking plan ever passed in the world. Radical measures that are supposed to save thousands of lives and relieve the health system. New Zealand voted for it in 2022, before the general election. The new government coalition, which takes office on Monday 27 November, has announced that it will scrap these measures in order to recover funds to finance its tax cuts.

New Zealand's new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon at the swearing-in ceremony in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday, November 27. AP - Mark Mitchell

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This was a total surprise and dismay for the New Zealand health sector, which is already mobilizing to save what can be saved from the anti-smoking plan of the previous ruling coalition.

Lisa Te Morenga can't get over it. How can the new executive renounce these measures that have been set as an example around the world?" she asked. Contacted by RFI, this nutrition specialist, co-president of the New Zealand Association of Health NGOs, could not explain it.


The new health minister is a doctor who supported denicotinization, she recalls. We can just say that they ate their hat to form a coalition, and wonder what's behind it. Why are they pushing for a decision that will only benefit the tobacco industry, and certainly not the population?


This text, voted at the end of 2022, first planned to denicotinize cigarettes, in other words to radically lower their nicotine content in order to avoid addictions. It then planned to increase the minimum age of access to tobacco each year. And finally, to reduce the number of points of sale to a minimum.

Yes, but it's not the spirit of this law that's the problem, says the new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, it's the method

For example, concentrating the distribution of cigarettes in a single store in a small country town is like making a crime magnet. This will encourage the black market, which is not necessarily the right way to do it.

The new government does not say how, but it promises to continue the fight against tobacco in its own way. For their part, health professionals are planning the first demonstrations.

Tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death worldwide

Banning the sale of tobacco to people born after 2008 was seen as a strong move. In this regard, the French Minister of Health, Aurélien Rousseau, presented his own plan for the next few years on Tuesday 28 November.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, causing an estimated 8 million deaths per year worldwide. We have known this since the middle of the twentieth century, but it is only in the last thirty years or so that real public policies have been put in place.

To date, only 40% of the world's countries have enclosed public places that are no-smoking to smokers. Some countries tax cigarettes heavily, saying that the more expensive they are, the less they can be bought. This is already the case in France, where the package amounts to about 11 euros.

Except that playing on the price is not enough to reduce consumption. Some countries, such as the United States, regularly sue tobacco companies. Others vary the prevention, information or support measures for quitting smoking.

All of this had been effective in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the stress it has generated, has caused a surge in consumption among adults in any case. Smoking among young people is declining, while electronic cigarettes are gaining followers.

Read alsoNew Zealand: Labour Prime Minister Chris Hipkins lost the election

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