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John MacDonald: Smoking changes shameful and unforgiveable

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 1:33PM

John MacDonald: Smoking changes shameful and unforgiveable

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 1:33PM

I hope just as much as the next person that good things do come from our new Government, but what it’s planning to do to our smokefree laws is just unforgiveable. 

You’ll remember that, last year, the Labour Government passed one of the toughest laws in the world to try and reduce smoking rates in New Zealand. 

Which would have meant that anyone born after 2008 would never be able to buy cigarettes and tobacco legally. So anyone 14 and younger right now. 

All the kids in New Zealand’s primary and intermediate schools. Plus a few year 9s as well.   

But the new coalition Government is going to get rid of that. And, let’s face it, what the new coalition Government is going to do, is it’s going to enable some of the kids I just mentioned to grow up, start smoking and die of smoking-related diseases. 

National’s Nicola Willis was on Q+A yesterday banging on about not wanting her 13-year-old daughter to take up vaping but not saying the same thing about cigarettes. 

If National, ACT and NZ First weren’t poking their noses into it, it would have been impossible for Nicola Willis’s daughter to grow up and buy cigarettes legally. 

And I’ve got to give her credit for keeping a straight face when she explained why National has been convinced by ACT and NZ First to sign up to changing the smokefree laws. 

She said that David Seymour and Winston Peters were really concerned that if people found they weren’t allowed to buy cigarettes at the dairy, they’d ramraid the place. Or the black market for cigarettes would go nuts. 

Which is a cock and bull story, if ever I've heard one. 

Someone said to me last week, before we knew all the details about the coalition agreement, that if Winston Peters ended-up being Deputy Prime Minister, the Government would be providing free cigarettes in schools. 

They were joking, of course. But this change to our smokefree laws is the next best thing. Because it will just open the door to more people smoking, more people needing treatment for smoking-related illnesses, and more people dying. 

Nicola Willis wasn’t buying that yesterday, though, on Q+A.  

Jack Tame pointed out to her that around 5,000 people die every year from smoking-related diseases and modelling had shown that Labour’s policy was expected to about 8,000 lives by the year 2040. 

She said: “There is an ongoing commitment from this Government to reduce the number of people smoking, to stop people smoking in the first place, to reduce the harm from smoking, to support people to quit.” 

And she thinks we’re going to be just fine doing what we’re doing now with the age limit on buying cigarettes, signs up in shops telling people how dangerous it is to smoke, hiding them behind cupboard doors in shops.  

Another thing Nicola Willis thinks is serving us well in terms of reducing the number of smokers is making them super expensive. But hold on a minute. Isn’t that one of the reasons why the ramraids have been happening? Aren’t people nicking cigarettes to sell on the black-market? 

So there goes ACT and NZ First’s argument that we should let more people buy cigarettes, and let more people die from smoking, because it’ll mean less ramraids.  

Christopher Luxon was dancing on the head of a pin too when he was on Newstalk ZB. 

He said Labour's legislation would have created a black-market that was "untaxed”. And that’s what this is all about.  

Because Winston Peters wasn’t prepared to go along with the foreign buyers plan to fund tax cuts, National is going with NZ First’s plan to let more people die from smoking instead.   

Which, in my mind, is shameful and unforgivable.  


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