Labour’s attempted crackdown on smokers would have delivered criminal groups a near-monopoly over the cigarette trade.

Make no mistake, denicotisation would have effectively banned cigarettes as we know them. A 95% reduction in nicotine would have been like swapping out beer for kombucha, and smokers craving real cigarettes would turn to the black market.

Normalising interactions between ordinary New Zealanders and organised criminals is about as dumb a plan as we could imagine, and yet that’s what Labour was proposing.

It’s been disappointing to see the media buy into the nonsense arguments pushed by professional nanny statists. Their hatred of the tobacco industry has led them to a dangerous and illogical place.

They argue that, because concerns about the black market have previously been mentioned by tobacco companies, we should dismiss any such concerns entirely, no matter who raises them, no matter how serious and warranted those concerns clearly are.

Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco products in 2004 and has spent the last 17 years fighting a booming black market, with disastrously high smoking rates. In Australia, political efforts to price smokers out of the habit have fuelled a crime wave of firebombings and and gang murders linked to the illegal tobacco trade.

The latest claim from Health officials is that New Zealand’s black market is shrinking. Clearly they haven’t spoken with Customs officials who just this month warned of a significant and concerning uptick in seizures of smuggled tobacco, concealed in sea cargo, stuffed into roofing frames and gypsum board.

The evidence is staring us in the face that sophisticated criminal enterprises have already developed around smuggled tobacco. Why would we want to make these enterprises even more profitable?

ACT’s coalition agreement committed to repealing Labour’s prohibitionist legislation, and we applaud the Associate Health Minister for shepherding this repeal through Parliament while under fire from a frenzied opposition and media.

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