Enlarge image

Photo: Oliver Helbig / Getty Images

Under Labor leader Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand passed a groundbreaking smoking ban at the end of 2022, but the conservative government has now overturned it - to the dismay of health experts.

The coalition led by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon repealed the legislative package in an urgent procedure on Thursday night.

This was preceded by a heated parliamentary debate.

The government, which also includes the populist NZ First party, wants to use the move to finance promised tax cuts, among other things.

She had already announced the plan after taking office last November (read a comment by SPIEGEL editor Marco Evers here).

The law passed by the previous left-wing government stipulated a smoking ban for people born after 2009.

Tobacco would no longer have been allowed to be sold to them for life.

This means that young people should no longer be tempted to start smoking.

A reduction in the nicotine content in cigarettes and a smaller number of tobacco sales outlets were also anchored in the law.

The country should be largely smoke-free by 2025.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand.

The laws were due to come into force gradually from July this year.

Tobacco industry profits over health of New Zealanders

"New Zealand has seen the largest decline in smoking rates in the world in recent years and we want to build on the practical tools and approaches that have worked so far," said Deputy Health Minister Casey Costello.

The government remains committed to making the country smoke-free.

But the Labor government pursued a "prohibitionist" approach that ignored how well smoking cessation initiatives worked.

Researchers from the ASPIRE Aotearoa Research Center at the University of Otago described the repeal of the laws as “shameful”.

Scientists should help implement the Labor government's goals.

Now thousands of unnecessary deaths remain at risk each year, particularly among Maori, said co-director Andrew Waa.

New Zealand's indigenous people have a higher smoking rate than the rest of the population and are particularly prone to tobacco-related illnesses.

Waa stressed that recent opinion polls have also shown strong public support for the laws.

"The tobacco industry will celebrate its victory because it has persuaded the government's coalition parties, all of which have close ties to the industry, to push through their agenda," said the non-governmental organization Health Coalition Aotearoa.

"It is completely irresponsible to put the profits of the tobacco industry above the health of New Zealanders."