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New Zealand’s Decision to Revoke Tobacco Policy Concerns Officials

— December 8, 2023

The country’s groundbreaking smoking ban is repealed for financial reasons.

In many ways, the country of New Zealand is a world leader on topics of human health. This relatively small island nation was one of the most effective in tamping down the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of strict measures that cut down the spread of the virus before it could reach alarming levels. Plenty of other nations looked to New Zealand’s decision making for leadership based on their performance in this area.

New Zealand’s decision surrounding smoking had garnered a lot of positive attention but is now being reversed. An incredibly strong stance had been taken by the country against tobacco products, which was met with celebration by health advocates, only now to see that stance turned around for financial reasons.

The plan that was in place in New Zealand was one of the most aggressive anti-smoking pieces of legislation in history. The goal was actually quite simple – it was going to make it illegal for anyone born after January 1, 2009, to ever purchase tobacco in the country. This was known as a “generational ban” on tobacco and would aim to gradually phase out smoking and other forms of tobacco use in the country as time passed and younger people did not have access to the substance in its various forms.

New Zealand's Decision to Revoke Tobacco Policy Concerns Officials
Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

Obviously, such a ban – while ambitious – could have a tremendously positive effect on the health of a country if enacted successfully. Without legal access to tobacco, smoking rates would be sure to plummet, and smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable premature death. And, even further, for people who aren’t killed by their smoking habit, it will certainly lead to some health problems. So, the health of the country would improve and the cost of care for those with smoking-related illness would nearly vanish.

As is guaranteed to be the case with any kind of dramatic change such as this, there has been plenty of argument over whether or not this legislation is the best path forward. Those who are focused on public health above all else obviously support the change, as the impact of dramatically cutting back on smoking can be argued. At the same time, there are those on the other side of the matter who believe such a ban will encourage a criminal market for tobacco products. What’s more, maintaining the legality of tobacco sales allows the government to continue to collect tax revenues on their sale, and that money can be used to support tax cuts in other areas.

As it stands currently, the “generational ban” on the sale of tobacco has been repealed and will not go into effect as planned. If that remains the case, public health in New Zealand will not get to enjoy the widespread benefits that would have come along with phasing out tobacco use. With that said, there are sure to be many more debates had in the years to come, and a reversal of course is not out of the question.


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