New Zealand has announced it will outlaw smoking for the next generation so that those who are aged 14 and under today will never be legally able to buy tobacco.
People aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to purchase cigarettes in the Pacific country of five million, part of the proposals unveiled on Thursday will also curb the number of retailers authorized to sell tobacco and cut nicotine levels in all products.
New legislation means the legal smoking age will increase every year, to create a smoke-free generation of New Zealanders, associate health minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall said on Thursday.
“This is a historic day for the health of our people,” she said.
The government announced the rising age alongside other measures to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible, to try to reach its goal of making the country entirely smoke-free within the next four years. Other measures include reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products to very low levels, cutting down the shops where cigarettes could legally be sold, and increasing funding to addiction services. The new laws will not restrict vape sales.
“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. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco,” Verrall said.
According to reports, New Zealand’s daily smoking rates have been dropping over time, down to 11.6% in 2018, from 18% a decade earlier. But smoking rates for M?ori and Pacifika were far higher, 29% for M?ori and 18% for Pasifika.
“If nothing changes, it would be decades till M?ori smoking rates fall below 5%,” Verrall said. She said eradicating smoking in the next four years was within reach: “I believe it is. In fact, we’re on track to for the New Zealand European population. The issue is, though, if we don’t change what we’re doing, we won’t make it for Maori – and that’s [what] the plan is really focused on”.
The policies were welcomed by public health experts on Thursday.
“New Zealand once again leads the world – this time with a cutting-edge smoke-free 2025 implementation plan – it’s truly a game-changer,” said Dr. Natalie Walker, director of the Centre for Addiction Research at the University of Auckland. The reduction of nicotine in cigarettes was a world first, said public health prof Chris Bullen. From a health perspective, “all my wishes have come true”, he said.