New Zealand announced it plans to ban the sales of cigarettes to the next generation as part of the government’s new plan to make the country smokefree.
“This is a historic day for the health of our people,” Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said during the announcement of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan on Dec. 9.
To ensure that young Kiwis never start smoking, the government will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to young people.
People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco, Verrall said.
The bill will be introduced into parliament in June 2022 and is expected to pass in December 2022 (pdf).
If it goes through parliament as planned, the implementation of a “smokefree generation” will be achieved in 2027.
The new measures are being introduced because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one-in-four cancers.
“Smoking-related harm is particularly prevalent in our Māori, Pacific, and low-income communities,” Verrall said. “While smoking rates are heading in the right direction, we need to do more, faster to reach our goal.”
Despite the legal age to purchase tobacco is 18 years, 3 percent of people aged 15 to 17 smoke daily, while 12.9 percent of people aged 18 to 24 smoke daily.
The new rules also dictate that smoked tobacco products can only be sold with very low levels of nicotine in order to reduce the appeal and addictiveness of the products.
“The changes will not come into effect immediately, giving retailers time to transition to a new business model,” Verrall said, noting there should be a significant reduction in the number of shops able to sell smoked tobacco products.
The new legislation does not affect vaping, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as an alternative that “worked very successfully” to help people quit smoking.
“It is an important tool,” Ardern told reporters. “I’m sure there will be those who want to have a say on the use of vaping among young people in the future, but we are very focused in this plan on stopping people from taking up smoking in the first place.”