New Zealand bans cigarettes for a smoke-free generation

Dec 09, 2021
Legislation will mean people currently aged 14 and under will never be able to legally purchase tobacco. Source: Getty

New Zealand has announced it will ban smoking for young smokers in a bid to create a smoke-free generation of New Zealanders by 2025.

The new legislation means that those aged 14 and under will never be legally allowed to purchase tobacco, reports The Guardian today (Thursday, December 8). 

According to associate health minister Dr Ayesha Verall, the new legislation means that New Zealand’s legal smoking age, which is currently 18, will increase every year to create a smoke-free generation of New Zealanders. 

The Ardern Government has also announced its plans to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible, in order to reach its goal of a smoke-free country within the next four years. 

‘We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,’ Dr Verrall said on December 9. 

Cigarette prices have increased by 10 per cent every year for the past 10 years between 2011 and 2020. These price hikes have also seen the creations of black market cigarettes, which the government had acknowledged in its initial documents outlining their proposal. 

“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” it said.

The government will also be restricting the number of shops allowed to sell cigarettes, with plans to issue licenses to only 500 shops nationwide. Nicotine strength in cigarettes will also be reduced in a bid to tackle their addictiveness.

According to Professor Chris Bullen, from the University of Auckland, the government plan “was very good news”.

“If implemented as outlined, it could just be the single most significant step we take as a nation to reducing preventable death and disease and reducing health inequities in the next few years,” said Bullen.

The announcement of the plan has not come without criticism. The ACT party has argued that reducing the nicotine in products will affect lower-income people the most, claiming that these people will have to purchase more cigarettes and smoke more to access their needed dose. 

Smoking has already been taken over by the fad of vaping, which is attracting many New Zealand youths who have never smoked a cigarette. 

The Guardian reports that in a survey done this year on 19,000 high school students, nearly 20 per cent were vaping regularly and at several times a day, the majority with high nicotine doses. This is compared to the three per cent of those aged 15-17 who smoked daily in 2018 and the 13 per cent who smoked a decade earlier. 

But after public consultation, the Government’s initial plans for a smoke-free New Zealand are now finalised. Though they still need to pass through the legislative process, The Guardian says it is unlikely to face any obstacles, with Smokefree2025 Labours headline policy, and the party who holds the most seats in New Zealand parliament.

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