New Zealand is reversing its world-first generational smoking ban, a year after the country first passed the legislation and before it ever came into effect.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced the decision during his swearing in on Monday, linking the reversal to an effort to improve the economy and reduce inflation.
The new law, passed by former prime minister Jacinda Ardern's government, featured a lifetime ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after 2008. The country's smoking age would rise yearly, until eventually applying to everyone. By 2023, this would have meant anyone under 15 would be prohibited from buying cigarettes for the rest of their lives, the New York Times reported in 2022.
Prime Minister Luxon's conservative National Party came to power earlier this year, gathering 38% of the country's vote and forming a coalition with populist-right party New Zealand First.
Despite not campaigning to reverse the ban, Luxon said he Ardern-era policy would have led to “an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which would be largely untaxed,” Time notes.
With a study attributing about 5,000 deaths a year to smoking, critics say the decision will cost more in long-term spending through health-care funding.
The United Kingdom followed a similar approach to New Zealand, enacting its own generational smoking ban starting in 2024. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government remains committed to its plan despite New Zealand's reversal, meaning the U.K. will instead become the first country to impose a generational smoking ban.