New Zealand’s new Conservative government confirmed today its intention to abandon the country’s pioneering anti-tobacco measures, a setback which a non-governmental organization denounced as a “huge victory for the tobacco industry”.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern managed to get a “generational smoking ban” passed by parliament last year, banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008.

The policy had been welcomed by public health experts and anti-smoking advocates. Almost identical measures were recently announced in the UK.

Nevertheless the new Prime Minister Christopher Lacsonwho took office today, confirmed New Zealand will scrap the relevant laws before they come into force, citing fears there could be a large black market in tobacco.

Lacson also admitted that taxes on cigarette sales generate revenue welcome for the government, but he stressed that this was “not the motivation” to lift the ban.

Health Coalition Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) announced that the abandonment of this policy is an insult to the country.

“This is a major defeat for public health and a huge victory for the tobacco industry, whose profits will increase at the expense of New Zealanders’ lives,” the organization said in a statement.

Christopher Lacson defended the decision today, claiming that banning cigarettes would create “an opportunity for a black market to emerge, which is largely untaxed”.

The law was designed to almost immediately reduce the number of people using tobacco, in a country where the number of adult smokers is relatively low.

The law would have gradually raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products and would have drastically reduced the number of shops which are allowed to sell tobacco to a maximum of 600 across the country.

Assumption of responsibilities

Former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Lacson was today officially sworn in as Prime Minister of New Zealand’s coalition government, saying his top priority is the fight against inflation.

“It’s an honor and a huge responsibility,” Lacson told reporters after being sworn in as prime minister during a ceremony in the capital Wellington.

Lacson, 53, has been in office for six weeks following the victory of his conservative political formation, the National Party, in the general election, which ended six years of Labor rule.

“The number one priority is to restore the economy. We need to lower the cost of living and get inflation under control so we can lower interest rates and lower food prices,” he explained.

Outgoing Prime Minister, Labor leader Chris Hipkins, had succeeded Jacinda Ardern in January. Ardern ended her five-year term as prime minister, saying she no longer had “enough energy”.

Lacson today became the 42nd Prime Minister of New Zealand after forming a coalition government after lengthy negotiations that ended on Friday, six weeks after the election.

Lacson’s National Party formed a tripartite coalition in the 123-member parliament with the conservative ACT party and the populist New Zealand First party.

First time in New Zealandthe role of deputy prime minister will be split over two 18-month terms.

New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters, 78 years old, sworn in as deputy prime minister alongside Lacson, but he will leave his duties at the end of May 2025.

He will be replaced by ACT chief David Seymour for the remainder of the parliamentary term, which is expected to last three years.