New Zealand Reverses Controversial Tobacco Ban Legislation Amid Health Concerns

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The new coalition government elected in October confirmed the repeal will happen on Tuesday.

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New Zealand is set to overturn a pioneering law that would have banned tobacco sales for future generations, the government announced. The decision to repeal the law, which aimed to implement the world’s toughest anti-tobacco rules starting in July, has sparked concerns from researchers and campaigners who fear potential health risks and disparities among certain populations.

The initial law, scheduled to take effect in July, would have prohibited tobacco sales to individuals born after January 1, 2009. It also proposed a substantial reduction in nicotine content in smoked tobacco products and a drastic reduction in the number of tobacco retailers, aiming for a reduction of over 90%.

The newly elected coalition government, taking office in October, has confirmed the repeal, citing urgency and eliminating the need for public consultation, aligning with previously announced plans.

Associate Health Minister Casey Costello emphasized the government’s commitment to reducing smoking but outlined a different regulatory approach to discourage the habit and minimize associated harm. Costello stated that a comprehensive set of measures to assist individuals in quitting smoking would be presented to the cabinet soon. Additionally, vaping regulations would be tightened to discourage young people from adopting the habit.

Despite criticism for the potential adverse impact on public health in New Zealand, the decision has faced backlash, particularly due to concerns about its disproportionate effects on Maori and Pasifika populations, groups with higher smoking rates.

Otago University researcher Janet Hoek expressed her discontent, stating that the repeal contradicts robust research evidence and disregards measures strongly supported by Maori leaders. She argued that the legislation, if implemented, would have rapidly increased quitting rates among smokers and made it more challenging for young people to initiate smoking, as supported by large-scale clinical trials and modeling studies.

The repeal of the controversial tobacco ban legislation raises questions about New Zealand’s commitment to addressing smoking-related health issues and the potential consequences for different demographic groups.

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