November 24, 2023
New Zealand’s new ruling coalition has on Friday announced plans to abandon its proposed generational tobacco ban, which provided the inspiration, the model, and not least the political cover for the projected UK generational ban, currently undergoing a consultancy period (closing on 6 December – please see below for how you can make your opinion heard via Asian Trader).
The coalition agreement by the centre-right National Party, the populist New Zealand First party and libertarian ACT New Zealand, however, retains the curbs on vaping, including the proposal to ban disposable vapes, proposed by the outgoing Labour Party government.
The agreement outlines the results of political negotiations between the three parties, and among them is the agreement to scrap the impractical and divisive generational tobacco ban – which also included the withdrawal of 90 per cent of tobacco licences from the nation’s convenience stores (or “dairies” as they are called down-under).
A similar withdrawal ordering the vast majority of stores to stop stocking tobacco altogether, an unavoidable necessity to ensure the ban had any hope of working, would also have been needed in the UK, placing in jeopardy the livelihoods of 90 per cent, or 45,000, convenience store businesses, for whom tobacco sales revenue is a vital element of their income.
The coalition agreement document reads: “To improve the effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness of public services, the Parties will … repeal amendments to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 and regulations before March 2024, removing requirements for denicotisation, removing the reduction in retail outlets and the generation ban, while also amending vaping product requirements and taxing smoked products only.”
The anti-smoking laws that passed New Zealand parliament in December 2022 included bans on selling tobacco to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009, punishable by fines up to NZ$150,000 (£78,180).
The legislation also reduced the amount of nicotine allowed in smoked tobacco products and cut the number of retailers able to sell tobacco to 600 from 6,000.
In June this year, New Zealand unveiled measures to curb vaping by young people, from limits on sales near schools to a ban on some disposable units. The new government intends to continue with these measures.
In the coalition agreement the parties said they will “reform the regulation of vaping, smokeless tobacco and oral nicotine products while banning disposable vaping products and increasing penalties for illegal sales to those under 18.”
In an early response to the surprise move, Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the free market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The eccentric idea of a generational smoking ban is doomed to failure. It is an unworkable pipe dream that will only enrich tobacco smugglers and erode respect for the law while doing little to reduce smoking.
“The Kiwi U-turn comes just weeks after the Malaysian government abandoned a similar policy because age discrimination is unconstitutional. Prime minster Rishi Sunak now stands alone in the world, carrying the torch of a policy dreamt up by Jacinda Ardern at the fag end of a Labour government on the other side of the world.”
Only Bhutan, which banned cigarette sales in 2010, will have stricter anti-smoking laws.