Health experts condemn new Government's plans to scrap smokefree legislation

Health experts are labelling the new Government's plans to scrap smokefree legislation "vile" and "devastating".

The tobacco industry brings in nearly $2 billion a year in tax revenue.

And incoming Finance Minister Nicola Willis has admitted that scrapping smokefree legislation will help fund tax cuts.

New Zealand's smoke-free laws are heading to the tip.

Willis told Newshub Nation's Simon Shepherd on Saturday both ACT and New Zealand First were "insistent" on reversing the restrictions.

"We've agreed to that in these coalition agreements," Willis told Shepherd.

Agreeing to ditch world-leading legislation banning the sale of cigarettes to future generations, reduce nicotine levels, and the number of tobacco retailers.

The reason? Money. ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation that tobacco brings in about $1.8 billion of tax revenue every year.

"The Government can continue to tax it," he said.

"I think that's a more realistic solution than what the previous Government was headed towards."

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.

A kick that'll help pay for the tax cuts National campaigned so hard on.

"We have to remember that the changes to the smoke-free legislation had a significant impact on the Government books - with about $1 billion there," Willis told Newshub Nation.

"Tax cuts for the rich at the cost of the lives of our tamariki is just vile," Te Morenga said.

Tax cuts aren't the only cuts on the agenda.

The new Government is also scrapping National's proposed welfare policy which would have raised the limit households can earn and still receive the Working for Families benefit. That'll save about $555 million over three years.

Public servants are also on the chopping block. The coalition wants to reduce the public service by about 6.5 percent by returning to 2017's staff numbers - 15,000 fewer than today.

"We're going to look at what that data tells us and use that as one of the inputs to guiding what sort of spending reductions we'll expect," Willis said.

However the Public Service Association argues that a lot has changed since 2017 - there are half a million more Kiwis, there's been a pandemic, and major natural disasters.

The union says the Government's plan to slash jobs is an attack on important public and community services.

"What we're talking about here is not efficiencies, we're talking about cuts to services - the amount of money they looking at saving means there'll be a reduction in services for New Zealanders," said Public Service Association national secretary Duane Leo.

And that's something the union's vowing to fight.