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expert reaction to New Zealand saying they’re going to overturn smoking ban legislation

Scientists react to news that New Zealand are overturning the smoking ban legislation. 


Prof Caitlin Notley, Professor of Addiction Sciences, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, said:

“It is extremely concerning that a complete about-turn to the progressive approach to eradicating tobacco smoking in New Zealand is now being proposed. This sends a dangerous message that preventing tobacco smoking – the leading cause of early death and disease – is not a priority. The world had looked to the previous NZ government as global leaders in bold proposals that would accelerate the country towards a future free of tobacco smoking. The change in direction is particularly concerning as tobacco smoking is so unevenly distributed. The most deprived populations have the highest smoking prevalence. Smoking prevalence in high-income countries has steadily decreased over time, but prevalence among Indigenous people is substantially higher. The sudden shift away from the previously proposed ‘tobacco endgame’ policies therefore will undoubtably further widen health inequalities between Māori and non-Māori populations.”


Prof Jamie Brown, Director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, University College London, said:

“The New Zealand measures were bold and likely to have avoided many preventable deaths from smoking among the least advantaged in their society. It is extremely disappointing that they are to be scrapped to fund tax cuts – apart from the moral imperative to reduce avoidable deaths, the measures would likely also have saved more money in the long-term from reduced healthcare and improved productivity. New Zealand and the UK were set to lead the world in tobacco control – hopefully other countries will learn from the contrasting trajectories that smoking prevalence will likely now follow in the two countries.”


Dr Sarah Jackson, Principal Research Fellow in the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, said:

“The New Zealand government’s decision to overturn its bold tobacco control legislation does not appear to have been made with public health in mind. Cigarettes are uniquely lethal – the only legal product that kills half of people who use it as intended. Most people take up smoking in their teens and early twenties, not intending to develop a lifelong addiction. Many smokers want to stop but find it incredibly difficult once addicted.

“Evidence shows that raising the age of sale of tobacco leads to reductions in the number of young people taking up smoking. Modelling from New Zealand suggests the legislation would have seen smoking rates fall below 5% by 2025, which would be a major milestone. It also had the potential to substantially reduce health inequalities in New Zealand. Smoking rates are much higher in the indigenous Māori population and this is a key driver of poorer health outcomes.

“New Zealand has been seen as a leader in tobacco control. England’s proposed smokefree generation policy, announced in the King’s speech earlier this month, is thought to have been inspired by New Zealand’s legislation. There is a risk that New Zealand’s U-turn could prompt policymakers in England to reconsider the smokefree generation policy, threatening the viability of this major step towards a smokefree future.”


Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:

“Repealing the smokefree generation policy is purely a political decision by New Zealand’s National Party in order to secure the handful of votes it needs from a libertarian party to form a government. The idea that that by doing so it could fund tax cuts is ludicrous. In the UK, analysis for ASH by Landman Economics shows that smoking costs public finances nearly double tobacco tax revenues, so there’s no way that repealing the legislation can fund tax cuts. Our Prime Minister has made very clear that we’re still on track for smokefree generation legislation to be passed before the next election, as promised in the King’s speech and supported by the official opposition, putting us in pole position to achieve a smokefree future for our children.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

Sarah Jackson: I have no conflicts to declare.

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