Election 2023: Incoming PM Christopher Luxon defends removing smokefree legislation, hits out Labour's policies

Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says his Government is committed to bringing smoking rates down despite removing legislation to pay for tax cuts.  

The incoming government has come under fire from health experts who've labelled the new Government's decision to scrap smokefree legislation as "vile" and "devastating". 

On the scrap heap includes world-leading legislation banning the sale of cigarettes to future generations, reducing nicotine levels and the number of tobacco retailers.  

The reason for this is money. ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation on Saturday tobacco brings in about $1.8 billion of tax revenue every year. 

But health experts say the actual cost is thousands of lives, especially for Māori. 

"I was devastated. It was like a kick to the stomach," said Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chair Lisa Te Morenga. 

Luxon was quizzed about this when he appeared on AM on Monday morning and was adamant his Government would continue to bring smoking rates down.  

AM co-host Ryan Bridge asked how he felt about removing the legislation that could mean under "his Government a young person could have a deadly smoking addiction they wouldn't have had if Labour was in power". 

"I wouldn't characterise it that way," Luxon replied. "You've got to remember before the election the government passed a bunch of changes to smoking legislation so none of it has been implemented as such."

He told AM he was "quite concerned about" some of the legislation. 

"The limited distribution means you create an effect where there is an increased level of ram raids or a bigger black market emerges because it's largely un-taxed," he said. 

"The idea that a 36-year-old can smoke but a 35-year-old can't with the age generational changes that were going to be made, all of that certainly for ACT and New Zealand First were issues where they said 'that doesn't make a lot of sense.'"  

When asked by Bridge if he is trying to make sure "everyone has the chance to smoke", Luxon disagreed.  

"What we want to continue seeing is smoking coming down and it has been coming down tremendously under successive governments, we will continue that pathway," Luxon said. 

"Good education, vaping has taken a lot of that smoking drive away, which is fantastic. We want to make sure vapes aren't sold to under-18s and we will have stronger penalties in that space but the reality is we will continue to drive and encourage people not to smoke, but the changes the government was making we think had some unintended consequences that aren't actually helpful and it wasn't a drive to fund our tax plan, that's a by-product of that."  

Watch the full interview above.