Health experts furious over Government's plan to scrap smokefree measures

Health experts are lining up to slam the Coalition's plan to scrap measures to cut the number of smokers, saying it will mean thousands more will die which will end up costing more.   

They're also warning the plan to rely on smokers to fund tax cuts is damaging our international reputation.   

To say the health sector is horrified is an understatement.  

"I'm incredibly shocked and embarrassed for New Zealand," said Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia Harding.  

"As respiratory clinicians across New Zealand... we were appalled," said Dr Paul Dawkins.  

"Absolutely jaw dropping honestly. I was horrified. I don't think we saw this coming," said Dr James Fingleton. 

The new Government's decision to reverse efforts to cut ciggies' nicotine levels, cut the number of cigarette retailers and scrap the world-first smokefree generation was one of the bigger surprises of the coalition agreements.  

"All three parties had issues with the measures that were passed before the election," said Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.   

Some online have not been kind, labelling the Health Minister “Shane Cigaretti” and the Finance Minister “Nicotine Willis”.  

Willis said on Newshub Nation on Saturday that more people smoking will help pay for her tax cuts, providing about a billion dollars.  

Harding said: "That we're actually going to collect revenue from an excise tax from a product known to kill people is just a ludicrous statement to make."  

It's also expensive in the long run because even though keeping Kiwis smoking would top up the Government coffers by a billion dollars over three years, Treasury estimated the smokefree changes about to be turfed would have saved 580,000 Health Adjusted Life Years because more Kiwis would've lived longer, which would have cut public health costs by $5.25 billion and added $5.88 billion in productivity benefits in the coming decades.   

There will be more people working and fewer people sick and dying.  

"I don't buy the logic that if the Government doesn't do something and people make choices the Government is responsible for those choices," said Minister for Regulation David Seymour.   

The Government is responsible for our international reputation.   

The Coalition stubbing out our smokefree measures has made headlines from the UK, to Australia, to the United States.  

"It's affecting our international reputation as well so the politicians need to be aware of that, that other people are looking at us and are scratching their heads about why this is going ahead," said Dawkins from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand.   

Newshub asked to speak with both the Health and Finance ministers - we were sent to New Zealand First because Associate Health Minister Casey Costello is expected to take charge of the repeals. But those requests were simply ignored, as were repeated attempts with National.   

This may not have been National's policy, but they're now ultimately responsible for it and won't be able to ignore a furious health sector for long.