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Smokefree Generation Law Scrapped By Coalition Govt

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The law that would have created a smokefree generation in New Zealand has been repealed under urgency by Parliament.

The Smokefree Amendment Bill passed just before midnight on Wednesday night.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins unleashed a fiery speech in the debating chamber saying the change would kill people, and increase smoking in New Zealand, while the government insisted its approach would continue to reduce smoking rates.

The law would have banned the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 1 January 2009; reduced the number of outlets able to sell tobacco from 6000 to 600; and removed 95 percent of nicotine from cigarettes.

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Defending the bill at its first reading, Associate Health Minister Casey Costello said the government was not stopping anything currently helping drive smoking rates down, as all the measures the law proposed were yet to take effect.

"This government is committed to the Smokefree 2025 goal, but we are taking a different regulatory approach to reducing smoking rates and the harm from smoking," she said.

"New Zealand has seen some of the largest drops in smoking rates across the world in recent years and we want to build on the practical tools and approaches that have worked to date. That means reverting back to, then building upon, the regulatory regime that Labour plan to change."

She said Labour's approach was an untested regime with a focus on prohibition, and the government instead wanted regulation of tobacco that would allow a practical, workable, and tested approach.

"We cannot ignore vaping played a key role as a cessation tool. It is a major reason we have made such progress and we need to ensure that vaping is available to adults for that purpose. This government supports initiatives that will provide people with practical tools and access to alternate products like vaping, to help smoking cessation," she said.

"We also want to ensure continued provision of effective, targeted stop-smoking services and marketing campaigns."

Hipkins criticised her speech as "nothing more than regurgitated talking points from the tobacco lobby".

"We have heard it all before from the tobacco lobby, and the Minister promoting this bill simply stood up and read it out on their behalf.

"This is a government that has absolutely no moral compass whatsoever-quite content to continue to promote and support an industry that literally kills its consumers. This is a government that thinks that more people smoking for longer and smoking more is an acceptable way to fund tax cuts.

"This is a bill that will kill people; it is a bill that will increase smoking in New Zealand."

He said it was a morally reprehensible piece of legislation and a stain on the Parliament.

"Doesn't it say everything about this government, that after disestablishing a programme that was specifically designed to improve Māori health outcomes, the first thing they do is bring a bill into this house that will make Māori health outcomes worse? They know it will, because the evidence is there and it is clear.

"The members opposite might be shaking their head about the fact that I'm angry about this. My question again to them is: why the hell aren't you?"


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