Previous Government let people drive on unsafe roads but didn't ban driving - David Seymour on scrapping smokefree legislation

The Regulation Minister is defending the Government's promised reversal of laws cracking down on smoking. 

National, ACT and NZ First's coalition documents signed on Friday revealed the new Government would repeal the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Act 2022. That law, which passed its third reading in Parliament in December, included denicotisation requirements, a reduction in retail outlets allowed to sell tobacco and a ban on smoking for future generations. 

Health experts called the new Government's promise to repeal the laws "vile" and "devastating". But Regulation Minister Seymour disagreed. 

"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 Seymour, the ACT Party leader.  

"Actually, the Government allows us to do a huge number of things that are dangerous. The Government, for example, hasn't banned driving cars and the Government maintains many unsafe roads that this Government is going to be fixing up." 

Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chair Boyd Swindon said scrapping the laws was a "major loss for public health and a huge win for the tobacco industry". But Seymour told AM the laws took away "the whole idea that we can make our own choices". 

A recent study published in the Tobacco Control journal found the laws would have saved the health system $1.3 billion over 20 years and reduced mortality rates by 22 percent for women and 9 percent for men.   

However, smoking was "not a switch the Government could switch on or off", said Seymour. 

"When the Government makes a policy, it has some consequences you expect and it has other consequences you don't expect. So, for example, the previous Government had planned to say there will be only 600 stores nationwide where you can buy tobacco - that would have led to security concerns for those stores because the Government has decided that all the tobacco in a large area is in one place."  

The Government's stance was at odds with the Cancer Society, the Māori Health Authority and Action for Smokefree 2025 - who all publicly backed the laws introduced by Labour.