Repeal of smoke-free laws – a massive set back for health

24 Nov, 2023 | Media Release

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) is extremely disappointed the new coalition Government plans to repeal world-leading Smoke-free laws, including de-nicotisation of cigarettes, a reduction in retailers and banning cigarettes for the next generation.  

HCA calls for the full implementation of the Smoke-free laws, with Māori leadership, as one of its top recommendations for action within the first 100 days, in a Briefing to the Incoming Parliament.

The Coalition Government’s Smoke-free Amendment repeal will cost thousands of lives and have the greatest effect on Māori – who have the highest rates of smoking (19 per cent), HCA co-chair Professor Lisa Te Morenga said.

“It’s a further insult to our tangata whenua by the newly formed coalition Government on top of the loss of Te Aka Whai Ora – the Māori Health Authority.”

The move was astounding, given incoming Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti’s previous stated support for denicotisation, HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.

“This is major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry – whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives.”

Swinburn said there was huge support for the world-leading, smoke-free amendments from the health sector – and the New Zealand public.

Recent modelling showed the Smokefree regulations would save $1.3 billion in health system costs over the next 20 years, if fully implemented – and reduce all-cause mortality rates by 22 per cent for women, and nine per cent for men. 

The National Party campaigned on “better health outcomes” and said it would “relentlessly focus on results” – but this goal would be completely undermined by the repeals, Swinburn said.  

Tobacco – along with alcohol and unhealthy food cause nearly one-third of preventable health loss in New Zealand.

Coalition agreements to further crack down on youth vaping is welcomed and HCA will be monitoring progress on proposed new regulations.

“Turning the tide on harmful products that are entrenched in society cannot be done by individuals, or even communities. It takes good – and brave – population-level policies,” Te Morenga said.

Prevention makes health and financial sense, HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.

Type 2 diabetes, a preventable diet-related disease, costs at least $1 billion every year in direct health services. Without meaningful change to address the causes of this epidemic, the annual cost will reach $3.5 billion by 2040.

HCA’s briefing to the new Government provides evidence-based prevention measures for its first 100 and 1000 days and includes:

First 100 days:

  • Initiate consultation with Māori and Iwi providers about how to ensure better outcomes for Māori health, following the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora
  • Urgently strengthen youth vaping regulations
  • With Māori leadership, implement the tobacco control measures for Smokefree 2025 (denicotinisation, retailer numbers reduction and smokefree generation)
  • Increase the alcohol levy to replace alcohol sponsorship of sports and events for a period of five years
  • Commit to develop a national food and nutrition strategy within the term of Government
  • Commit to baseline funding of Ka Ora, Ka Ako – the free healthy school lunches programme
  • Instruct the Ministry of Health to develop and design a sugary drinks industry levy

First 1000 days:

  • Achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal for all population groups.
  • Implement effective regulations to reduce youth vaping
  • Achieve a reduction in alcohol harm with new, Te Tiriti-centred alcohol laws
  • Expand Ka Ora, Ka Ako to 50 per cent of all schools
  • Achieve a reduction in consumption of sugary drinks and reformulation of beverages with a 20 per cent sugary drinks levy
  • Progressively increase the annual investment in prevention (public health) to 5 per cent of the health budget within the term of Government


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