Two years ago, New Zealand introduced legislation aimed at completely eliminating the sale of tobacco products for anyone born after January 2009. Now that a new coalition government headed by the National party has taken over, it looks like the bill will be repealed.
While the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan placed significant emphasis on cigarettes in particular, the legislation included “tobacco products” as a whole, which included cigars. Along with the generational ban, the new plan also placed heavy restrictions on the sale of tobacco products, which were set to be implemented in July of 2024. However, this past Saturday, the new National party-led government announced it would be scrapping the ban and its restrictions in an effort to fund their new tax-cut program.
Currently in New Zealand, anyone 18 years of age or older is legally permitted to purchase tobacco. But under the Smokefree plan, set to begin in 2025, the minimum age would increase to 19. In 2026, it would be 20; in 2027, it would be 21; and so on until tobacco sales were eventually non-existent. The plan, however, did not apply to vape sales.
The impact of this legislation was not just limited to future generations, it also targeted the current tobacco market. Significant restrictions were set to go into place next year, which included reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products, allowing the sale of tobacco only through special retailers and cutting the number of stores legally allowed to sell tobacco from 6,000 to just 600 across the country.
With a new national government in power, New Zealand officials announced this past weekend that it would remove both the generational ban and the restrictions on the sale of tobacco products.
The driving force behind the move is in large part an effort to avoid the loss of tax dollars generated from the sale of tobacco. The new finance minister, Nicola Willis, who announced the move on Saturday, believes the reversal will result in a massive influx of revenue to the government.
"We have to remember that the changes to the Smokefree legislation had a significant impact on the government books, with about $1 billion there," said Willis on New Zealand’s TV3 Newshub Nation. She expects the Smokefree measures to be scrapped before March of next year.
The current New Zealand prime minister Christopher Luxon offered additional reasoning for the reversal, adding that it can prevent a black market for tobacco products, also adding that enforcing the new age limit would be a challenge.
The generational tobacco ban was ground-breaking at the time of its announcement, however, it’s no longer as rare as it once was. Since then, we saw California propose a nearly identical bill in its state legislature (which ultimately didn’t pass) and earlier this year, it was reported that New York State was gauging interest in proposing a similar bill as well.
The New Zealand laws still need to be actively repealed through parliament, though it is expected to do so swiftly as the coalition government parties hold a majority.