Addicted to cigarette taxes, New Zealand scraps plans to restrict sales

New Zealand lawmakers decided to restrict the sale of cigarettes to tobacconists and regulate the amount of nicotine in them, but the country's new right-wing government is scrapping the plans. Tax revenue from cigarette sales will let them balance the books on tax cuts elsewhere.

On Saturday, the new finance minister, Nicola Willis, said the measures will be axed before March 2024, with the revenue from cigarette sales going towards the coalition's tax cuts. National has had to find new ways to fund its tax plan, after its coalition partner, New Zealand First, rejected a proposal to let foreign buyers back into the property market. …

But public health experts have expressed shock at the policy reversal, saying it could cost up to 5,000 lives a year, and be particularly detrimental to Māori, who have higher smoking rates. "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," said Prof Lisa Te Morenga, the chair of non-government industry group Health Coalition Aotearoa. Te Morenga highlighted recent modelling that showed the regulations would save $1.3bn in health system costs over the next 20 years, if fully implemented, and would reduce mortality rates by 22% for women, and 9% for men.

The obvious dynamic is that it makes a little money now and they don't really care if it costs more in the long term. It sounds from other reportage that the sort of people New Zealand voted into office would see unequal health outcomes as a bonus.