Health experts criticise new government’s shock reversal.
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Health experts criticise new government’s shock reversal.

As part of its plan to cut taxes, New Zealand’s new government plans to scrap the nation’s world-leading smoking ban.

Anyone born after 2008 would have been prohibited from purchasing cigarettes under legislation introduced under the former Jacinda Ardern government.

The policy sought to prevent the next generation from adopting the habit of smoking in New Zealand, which is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths.

In response to the sudden reversal, health experts have strongly criticized it.

“It is an incredibly retrograde step on world-leading, excellent health measures,” said Prof Richard Edwards of the University of Otago, an expert on tobacco control and public health.

Smokefree measures drew opposition from some business groups in New Zealand, despite being praised as a public health measure. Although government subsidies were provided, newsagents and corner shops complained about losing revenue.

It was also argued by some lawmakers, including the new Prime Minister Chris Luxon, that banning tobacco would create a black market.

Although his National party won 38% of the vote in the 14 October election, it did not mention the Smokefree laws during election campaigning. As the new finance minister Nicola Willis announced on Saturday, the government will repeal the laws, shocked health experts who believed it would remain in place.

It was National’s coalition partners, one of which was populist New Zealand First, and the other one was libertarian Act, that were “insistent” on reversing the laws, according to Ms Willis.

A coalition government between the National party and the two minor parties has proved challenging in spite of National party’s electoral victory.