Christopher Luxon wants to reduce smoking despite policy rollback – but won't commit to same reduction rate

Despite significant public pressure, the Coalition Government is pushing on with its controversial plan to roll back smokefree laws.  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said they will continue to reduce smoking but is refusing to commit to the same reductions as the laws he is repealing.  

Dr Shane Reti is a practising doctor. He has taken an oath to first do no harm. As the new Health Minister one of the first things, he'll do with his newfound power is roll back our smokefree laws.  

When asked if his conscience was clear, the minister replied: "I am clear that I will drive down smoking rates as part of this coalition".  

Dr Julian Vyas is a paediatric surgeon and believes "more lives will be lost as a result of repealing this legislation".  

He has a message for his fellow doctor and the coalition.  

"Don't do it. Putting the Government's finances before the wellbeing of our citizenry is wrong for any Government to do."  

But Luxon denies that is what the Government is doing.   

"I think it's rather disingenuous to suggest as such. We have a fundamental disagreement with that policy prescription, we don't believe it's the right prescription."  

The excise tax from ciggies will help pay for tax cuts.  

"What we're saying is there's a commitment from us to lower smoking across New Zealand," Luxon said.

Asked if he was committed to the same rates, Luxon said: "In fairness, we've been in power for two days and we need a chance to get Shane and the team to get their feet under the desk and work out what is a good goal."  

National didn't campaign on the smokefree rollback. It was a line item in ACT's alternative budget and was only added to New Zealand First's manifesto one week before the election - after people had started voting.  

The Prime Minister has now seen the cigarette light in his governing buddies' position.  

"You've got one store in Northland that will be a magnet for crime, absolutely no doubt about it there will also be a big drive around the black market," Luxon said.  

But a correction, the former Government's reduction of cigarette retailers actually allowed for 18 stores in Northland.  

"One of the most disappointing things about this whole sorry situation is seeing National party ministers spouting tobacco industry talking points," said Labour spokesperson Dr Ayesha Verrall.  

National's number three and part of their negotiating team is Chris Bishop, a former tobacco lobbyist.  

Labour MP Rachel Boyack alleged that getting a tobacco lobbyist into Parliament has paid off.  

"It is disgusting so yes it warrants a vomit emoji," Dr Verrall said.  

When asked if he had anything to do with the rollback, Bishop said: "Absolutely nothing".