Health advocates condemned moves in New Zealand and Malaysia to scrap legislation that would have banned tobacco sales to future generations.
Passed by the previous government, the New Zealand measure would have outlawed tobacco sales to anyone born after Jan. 1, 2009. It also would have limited the amount of nicotine allowed in smoked tobacco products and cut the number of tobacco retailers by 90 percent.
After New Zealand’s elections earlier this year, the country’s new center-right coalition announced it would repeal the generational tobacco ban.
“This is major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry – whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives,” Boyd Swinburn, co-chair of Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) in New Zealand, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
HCA pointed to academic research that found the laws could have saved some $1.3 billion in health system costs over 20 years, and reduced mortality rates.
In Malaysia meanwhile, lawmakers decided to remove a generational tobacco ban from proposed legislation after that country’s attorney general questioned the constitutionality of the endgame clause because it would create two sets of laws for two groups of citizens based on age.
Former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, however, blamed the tobacco lobby for Malaysia’s U-turn.
“Don’t even think for a minute that GEG [generational endgame] was dropped because of some lame excuse of a legal argument proffered by the AG,” he was quoted as saying by The Star. “No, GEG was dropped because of the strong lobby from Big Tobacco.”
Despite the setback, Jamaluddin said the fight against tobacco would continue. “This is not over,” he said. “One day, public health will win.”
Even as New Zealand and Malaysia reversed their endgame clauses, England reiterated its commitment to its version of the plan. Asked whether Rishi Sunak would consider following New Zealand and Malaysia’s examples, a spokeswoman for the British prime minister said: “No, our position remains unchanged. This is an important long-term decision and step to deliver a smoke-free generation which remains critically important.”