New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon has been unmoved by a global backlash to his government's abandonment of Smokefree laws, pledging instead to fast-track their removal.
Mr Luxon unveiled his coalition's first 100-day plan on Wednesday, which included axing the world-leading legislation among 49 priorities.
The move has made headlines among the world's biggest media outlets, and according to opposition leader Chris Hipkins, rendered New Zealand an "international embarrassment".
"That's bad news for New Zealand. It's bad for our international brand," Mr Hipkins said on Wednesday.
"We've seen the government announcing that they are going to partly fund their tax cuts by increasing the number of young New Zealanders that smoke cigarettes.
"That is morally reprehensible. It shows that just two days into government they have already lost their moral compass."
The Smokefree laws introduced by Jacinda Ardern's Labour government had three innovative planks, firstly, banning cigarette smoking among anyone born in 2009 or later, creating a "smokefree generation" which would phase out their use.
Secondly, the laws mandated the removal of nicotine content, removing their addictive qualities, and thirdly, by slashing the number of retailers that sold cigarettes by 90 per cent.
The proposals won worldwide plaudits from public health experts, and inspired the United Kingdom government to adopt a similar approach.
Mr Luxon said debate around the measures had been "disingenuous" and his government remained committed to phasing out smoking.
He said his National party agreed to axe the measures because they were unworkable, would lead to a black market, and the smaller amount of retailers would be targets for crime.
"How does it ultimately get enforced?" Mr Luxon asked.
"A 36-year-old can smoke, but a 35-year-old can't? ... That doesn't make a lot of sense."
"Smoking rates have come down on two successive governments over a number of decades now and they'll continue to do so under our government.
"We just disagree with that those those mechanisms or those components of what Labour was proposing."
Beyond the international interest, the decision has created a huge local backlash.
Several health groups and coalitions - led by the Cancer Society and Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners - have called on Health Minister Shane Reti to abandon the plans, with the new minister dubbed "Dr Shane Cigareti".
New Zealand's Smokefree 2025 goal was introduced in 2011 by John Key's National government, with the aim of keeping Kiwi smokers to fewer than five per cent of the adult population.
Smoking rates have consistently fallen over the past decade.
Eight per cent of adults smoked daily in 2022, down from 9.4 per cent in 2021, according to the health ministry.
Still, smoking causes great harm: cigarette-related deaths in New Zealand are estimated at around 5000 per year.
Axing the Smokefree laws will also continue a tax windfall for the new coalition.
The tobacco excise tax contributes more than one per cent of the government's revenue, at around $NZ1.9 billion ($A1.7 billion) in 2022.
Independent research from the Universities of Melbourne and Otago estimate the policies would save the health system more than $NZ1.3 billion ($A1.1 billion) over more than a decade.
University of Auckland professor Chris Bullen, a lead researcher in the field, said he wanted to buy a one-way ticket out of New Zealand when he heard about the government's climbdown.
"That's going to condemn many, many people to ongoing suffering, disease and disability for years to come," he told The Detail.
"There's blood on their hands here of our political leaders. I'm shocked. I'm aghast."
Mr Luxon denied he was putting profits above people.
"We don't believe it's the right prescription. It has unintended consequences that we don't think are going to help," he said.
Australian Associated Press