UK

England’s smoking phase-out ‘unchanged’ as New Zealand ‘will repeal law’

New Zealand is reportedly set to repeal its anti-smoking laws (Jonathan Brady/PA)
New Zealand is reportedly set to repeal its anti-smoking laws (Jonathan Brady/PA) New Zealand is reportedly set to repeal its anti-smoking laws (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Downing Street said the Prime Minister’s crackdown on cigarettes remains “unchanged” after reports New Zealand will rescind its own anti-smoking laws.

Rishi Sunak’s announcement at the Conservative Party conference last month that he would effectively outlaw smoking among younger generations, was seen as having been inspired by former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s government doing something similar.

But reports have suggested that the new coalition government in Wellington, to be led by the conservative National Party after it won 38% of the vote in October’s election, will repeal legislation banning tobacco sales to people born after 2008.

There have been calls for Mr Sunak to follow suit and dump his own bid to phase out the smoking of tobacco.

Proposed legislation for England will make it an offence for anyone born on or after January 1, 2009 to be sold tobacco products.

Smokers’ rights group Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) said the policy “treats future generations of adults like kids and it won’t work”.

Forest director Simon Clark said: “Having stolen the idea from the previous New Zealand government, the prime minister should follow the example of the next New Zealand government and scrap this crazy plan.

“It is a waste of parliamentary time when there are far more pressing issues that require the Government’s attention before the next election.”

No 10, however, said the anti-smoking proposals remained “critically important”.

Asked whether Mr Sunak would consider following Wellington’s lead, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “No, our position remains unchanged.

“We are committed to that.

“This is an important long-term decision and step to deliver a smoke-free generation which remains critically important.”

The legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products in England and Wales is 18, having been raised from 16 in 2007 by the previous Labour government.

A Government-commissioned report published in June 2022 found that, without urgent action, England would miss its 2030 smoke-free target by at least seven years.

Dr Javed Khan, who conducted the inquiry, put the annual cost to society of smoking at about £17 billion – £2.4 billion to the NHS alone.