Smokefree laws: Christopher Luxon slammed with questions about National's accuracy after false tobacco store claim

The Prime Minister's been forced to correct a false claim about the previous Government's smokefree laws.

The new Government spent its first week claiming under the policy only one store would have been able to sell tobacco in Northland - making it a magnet for criminals.

But the real number of stores is actually 35.

On Sunday Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was out doing what he does best - shmoozing the voters of Auckland's suburb of Avondale, even though it's 50 days since the election.

Meeting with a diverse group of stallholders and marketgoers, many told him they voted National.

But - just like on the campaign trail - questions about the accuracy of National's figures persist.

There was the now-abandoned foreign housebuyers tax and then last week Luxon said this as justification for abandoning the smokefree policy: "We think it's wrong, for example, to have a single store in Northland... if you've got one store in Northland that will be a magnet for crime."

But even after Newshub pointed out the real number was much higher, Luxon's number three, former tobacco lobbyist Chris Bishop, was repeating the same line on Sunday.

"There'd be one store in Northland, that's my understanding, yes," he told media.

Then hours later, came this embarrassing admission from his leader.

"We got it wrong and as I said we could have expressed it better. What I meant to say is there will be one or two outlets in any given town across New Zealand," Luxon said at a standup.

How wrong? Well, the Ministry of Health's own stats - available online - put it differently.

"Actually there's about 18 in rural Northland if I remember correctly and there's about 17 in identified towns across Northland, so about 35 in total," Luxon said.

Luxon's miscount has put him under fire from Labour.

"The Government needs to stick to the facts. Stop using untruths and tobacco industry talking points to justify the repeal of the smokefree laws," Labour's health spokesperson Dr Ayesha Verrall told Newshub.

Despite the difference of 34 retailers, Luxon said his argument still stands.

"[It] doesn't change a thing. The bigger point still holds that actually the reason why we opposed the legislation at the time is - and remember it hasn't taken effect, it's come into law but it hasn't taken effect - was simply to say we think that's the wrong way to go about it," Luxon told media on Sunday.

"Limiting distribution in that way, concentrating it in a few retail outlets, makes those stores a real magnet for crime, particularly in small towns up and down New Zealand - and importantly will drive into a black market."

All this overshadowed a morning spent reminding people and perhaps his unruly coalition partners that the PM is still popular with voters.

Mr 38 percent support has been caught out by some unfortunate maths.