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Tobacco Sale for Next Generation Banned in New Zealand

Tobacco Cigarette Smoking
Tobacco Sales for Next Generation Banned in New Zealand Credit: Raul Lieberwirth / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The sale of tobacco for the next generation has been banned in New Zealand following a historic anti-smoking bill passed in Parliament on Tuesday.

In an aim to outlaw smoking, the new bill targets anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, specifically those aged fourteen and under from ever being able to legally purchase cigarettes.

New Zealand is believed to be the first country in the world to implement an annually rising smoking age, ensuring tobacco cannot be sold to anyone in the targeted age group.

During the law’s passing on Tuesday, Ayesha Verrall, the associate health minister, said, “Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be [five billion dollars] better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations.”

The government of New Zealand is focused on preventing future generations from taking up smoking as part of its wider push to make the country “smoke free” by 2025.

Other measures regulating tobacco use

Besides passing new legislation, New Zealand has implemented measures to make smoking less affordable and accessible.

The measures include dramatically reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products and allowing products to be sold only through specialty tobacco stores rather than corner stores and supermarkets.

The new law will also reduce the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco to a tenth of their existing levels from six thousand to six hundred nationwide. This will come into force in 2023.

New Zealand has also increased funding for health services and campaigns. Furthermore, the government has rolled out smoking cessation programs specifically for Māori and Pacific communities. Violation of the new law is punishable by fines of up to $96,000 (NZ$150,000).

According to data released in November, the number of people smoking daily has fallen to 8 percent—down from 9.4 percent last year—marking the lowest recorded percentage of smokers in the country thus far.

Smoking a tobacco cigarette
Credit: Chuck Grimmett / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

New Zealand wants young people to never use tobacco

According to the Ministry of Health, New Zealand’s smoking rate is now the lowest ever recorded. Fifty-six thousand smokers quit only in the past year.

However, while introducing the law for its first reading in July, Verrall said, “For decades we have permitted tobacco companies to maintain their market share by making their deadly product more and more addictive. It is disgusting and it is bizarre. We have more regulations in this country on the safety of the sale of a sandwich than on a cigarette.”

“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an [offense] to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,” Verrall added. “People aged [fourteen] when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”

“Smoking rates are plummeting,” she added. “Our goal of being smoke-free by 2025 is within reach.”

However, the new laws will not restrict vape sales. Data indicates that at least some New Zealanders have swapped cigarettes for vapes.

The rise in daily vape users, however, was larger than the drop in daily smokers: 8.3 percent of adults are now vaping daily. This is up from 6.2 percent in the past year.

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