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To Ban Or Not To Ban: New Zealand Scraps Generational Smoking Ban

By Emily Malia 1st March 2024 3 Mins

As New Zealand scraps its generational smoking ban, the UK are still adamant on pushing for a smoke free future… but how reliable is the government’s vision?

It seems the UK government are forever taking notes from across the world when it comes to harm reduction. The latest, and probably most notable was the Conservatives recent adoption of New Zealand’s antismoking law.

In 2022 the Kiwi government passed a ‘trailblazing’ law which introduced the rise of the smoking age to stop citizens after 2009 from ever being able to legally purchase cigarettes.

The country’s law was designed to prevent smoking-related deaths and save the health system billions of dollars for future generations.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looked at their strategy as inspiration and in the months that followed, rolled out his own plans. Under Sunak’s plan, the age at which people will be able to buy tobacco products…currently 18, will increase by a year each year, meaning a child aged 14 today will never legally purchase cigarettes.

The government’s concerns about their own smoking habits came as a 2023 health report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that ‘12.7 percent of Brits over the age of 15 still use cigarettes daily’.

That figure is unfortunately far higher compared to New Zealand’s, who are leaps and bounds ahead of the UK on their journey to a smoke free future…despite doing a full U-turn on its scheme.

In order to help pay for tax cuts, the country’s government have officially ‘scrapped’ the smoking ban and so as a part of its coalition agreement with populist New Zealand First, National agreed to repeal the amendments.

Finance Minister, Nicola Willis said:

“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.”

However, public health experts have expressed concern at the reversal, claiming it could cost up to 5,000 lives a year, and be particularly detrimental to Māori, due to their higher smoking rates.

The chair of non-government industry group Health Coalition Aotearoa highlighted that a recent model demonstrated that regulations would save $1.3bn in health system costs over 20 years – if properly implemented –all while significantly reducing mortality rates.

It’s with these ideas in mind that Sunak is still adamant on introducing the ban, when asked whether he would consider following Wellington’s lead, a spokesperson for the PM said:

“No, our position remains unchanged.” “We are committed to that. “This is an important longterm decision and step to deliver a smoke-free generation which remains critically important.”

Although when the proposal for new smoking laws were initially unveiled, at the Conservative party conference back in September, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) claim the ban was ‘full of holes’.

The IEA Director Mark Littlewood spoke further:

“The phased smoking ban would just drive young people interested in smoking into the welcoming arms of the black market.”

In his column, former MP, Boris Johnson slammed the proposals writing:

“We are proposing to criminalise yet another variety of ordinary behaviour, with no thoughts to the consequences for those who have to make it work.”

Should smoking deadly cigarettes really be considered ‘ordinary behaviour’ in 2024? Or do future generations deserve better health with safer alternatives?

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Emily Malia