Social good' from booze, none from cigarettes - Simon Bridges

MPs from both sides of Parliament are defending the Government's decision to effectively ban cigarettes for future generations, but not other harmful substances such as alcohol and fast food.

Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall on Thursday announced plans to cut off sales to anyone currently aged 14 or below, permanently, from 2026

"We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth," she said.

The number of places that can sell nicotine products will be slashed to around 500, and cigarettes will need to have "very low" levels of nicotine to be legal for those old enough to be allowed to buy them.

While National Party leader Christopher Luxon said the party was "broadly supportive of anything that stops smoking", his former leadership rival Simon Bridges fears it won't work. 

"We support harm reduction - we've got a good record in Government, we support the intention of this," he told The AM Show on Friday. "I think we've got to see the detail. There is a bit of scepticism about the realism, the workability of it. But let's see the detail. Let's go in with an open mind."

It was a National-led Government that actually set the original Smokefree 2025 goal, way back in 2011. 

"We're supportive of the intention - let's see the detail," said Bridges. 

AM Show host Ryan Bridge put it to Bridges that alcohol and fast food are also harmful, asking why they aren't being phased out as well. 

"The first puff of a cigarette is bad, actually," said Bridges. "With the other two, some moderation is not bad actually. There's social good, every so often having a burger, every so often having a beer or two."

Labour MP David Parker, appearing with Bridges, agreed. 

"[Alcohol is] not a poison like the ingredients of cigarettes. Not in the same way. It's not as addictive as nicotine - nicotine is one of the most addictive substances in society… It is different. Cigarettes are still the leading cause of preventable death. I think it's about 40 percent of all cancers are caused by cigarettes. 

"Yes, if you have anything to excess - particularly alcohol, but also fast food, you can have harmful effects; but it's not quite the same as cigarettes." 

Critics have pointed out prohibition hasn't stopped people smoking cannabis and accessing other drugs. Parker said the Smokefree 2025 plan isn't prohibition.

"It's not prohibition - it's regulation. Prohibition is a blunt tool - it's necessary for the most harmful of substances. But we're not prohibiting cigarettes - we're phasing it out for younger people so we get the kids before they get hooked on cigarettes, because nicotine is so addictive. 

"But we're not prohibiting cigarettes - we're regulating their use."

He did admit the policy did amount to prohibition for future generations of Kiwis.