‘Milestone’ cigarette ban for adults announced
Plans to gradually implement a lifelong ban on buying tobacco products have been revealed by health officials in New Zealand. The aim is to make sure “future generations will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”
A scheme to effectively outlaw smoking was announced on Thursday by Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall. While the current minimum age to buy cigarettes is 18, there will be a lifelong ban for people aged 14 or younger – after the law passes, the minimum age to purchase would rise each year.
Places where cigarettes can be sold will be significantly restricted by the government, and nicotine levels in products will be controlled – and only those with “very low” amounts will be allowed on the market.
“As they [people] age, they and future generations will never be able to legally purchase tobacco,” the minister said, adding, “We want to make sure people never start smoking.” The ‘Smokefree Action Plan’ is “an important milestone in the history of tobacco control” that will serve as a “dramatic shift in the environment to de-normalize smoking,” Verrall said.
The proposed legislation is planned to become law by the end of next year, and the changes will be introduced in phases. First, the number of stores authorized to sell cigarettes will be limited, from about 8,000 to under 500 nationally.
The announcement of the unprecedented bid to effectively ban smoking “is a historic day for the health” of the nation, according to the health minister, who said smoking kills up to 5,000 people a year, and the habit is the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand. Despite existing bans restricting tobacco advertising and smoking in public places, around 13% of the population smoke. Among indigenous communities, the rate is more than two times higher. By 2025, the government aims to reduce the number of smokers to five percent.
While Kiwi anti-smoking lobby groups and public health officials praised the efforts, saying their country “once again leads the world” with the “cutting-edge” plan, producers questioned its effectiveness. The measures will only “push supply underground to the black market,” the local office of British American Tobacco, one of the world’s leading tobacco groups, said in a statement, as quoted by AFP. Other opposition parties said the government’s actions will force smokers to buy more cigarettes to get their nicotine fix.