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New Zealand repeals world-first ban on young people ever being able to buy cigarettes

New Zealand is today repealing what would have been a world-first ban on young people ever being able to buy cigarettes.

The law, due to come into effect in July, would have prevented anyone born after 1 January 2009 from buying tobacco products.

It would have also cut nicotine content in tobacco products and reduced the number of retailers by more than 90%.

But New Zealand's new coalition government has now confirmed the toughest anti-tobacco measures in the world are being revoked.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also has similar plans and previously said that the New Zealand U-turn would not change his mind.

The change in position in New Zealand comes after a new coalition deal ended six weeks of negotiations following the general election on 14 October last year.

The election saw the country shift to the right, with a win for the Conservative National Party under Christopher Luxon ending six years of a Labour government.

Under New Zealand's proportional voting system, parties typically need to form alliances to command a governing majority.

The government's associate health minister Casey Costello said the coalition is committed to reducing smoking, but it is taking a different regulatory approach to discourage the habit and reduce harm caused.

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"I will soon be taking a package of measures to cabinet to increase the tools available to help people quit smoking," she said.

The repeal decision has faced criticism that it will maintain health inequalities in the Maori and Pasifika populations, which both have higher smoking rates.

"This repeal flies in the face of robust research evidence and ignores measures strongly supported by Maori leaders, said Otago University researcher Janet Hoek.

"Large-scale clinical trials and modelling studies show the legislation would have rapidly increased the rates of quitting among smokers and made it much harder for young people to take up smoking," said Ms Hoek, co-director of a group studying ways to reduce smoking.

The UK government has not confirmed when the vote on its youth smoking ban will take place.