A Proposed New Zealand Law Will Ban Cigarette Sale for an Entire Generation

It is expected to come into force by the end of 2022.
Ameya Paleja

In a move that will prevent an entire generation from taking up smoking, New Zealand plans to bring in a new law to take the national adult smoking rate under 5 percent by 2025, Reuters reported

According to the numbers released by the New Zealand government, smoking is one of the top causes of preventable death in the island nation. Smoking kills 5,000 people every year in the country where approximately 11.6 percent of people above the age of 15 smoke, said another Reuters report. However, smoking rates are much higher for the indigenous people with 29 percent of Maori and 18 percent of Pasifika people engaging in the addictive habit, Guardian reported.  

New Zealand's existing laws around smoking make it illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to buy cigarettes and is also one of the 17 countries which mandate plain packaging of cigarettes, Reuters reported. While this has dropped adult smoking rates from 18 percent a decade earlier to just under 12 percent, according to The Guardian report, the government's move is to push this number further down to less than five percent in the next five years.

The move is also aimed largely at the indigenous population among whom the smoking rates still remain high and if not for the new plan would take decades for the rates to fall below 5 percent.  

According to the government, four out of five individuals who smoke start before the age of 18. The proposed law will make it illegal for anyone who is aged 14 and under in 2027 to purchase cigarettes in their lifetime. The law is intended to stop an entire generation from taking up smoking in the country. Over the next few months, the government will consult a Maori health task force and then introduce legislation in the parliament in June which could be implemented by the end of the next year. 

In addition to the age limits, the government is also considering reducing the number of stores that sell cigarettes in the country from 2024 while also aiming to reduce the nicotine levels in products from 2025, making it easier for people to quit. 

According to The Guardian report, although smoking rates have decreased among the youth in New Zealand, it has been replaced by vaping, even in individuals who would have never taken up smoking. A survey of 19,000 high school students done this year showed that 20 percent were vaping on a daily basis with high levels of nicotine. In comparison, only three percent of students in the age group were found to be smoking daily in a 2018 survey, The Guardian reported. 

The government has not yet revealed how it plans to enforce this law or whether it will be applicable to visitors as well in the country who could then smuggle these products. While this is not an outright ban of cigarettes like the one taken up in Bhutan, tobacco retailers have warned that it could result in the emergence of a black market for these products, Reuters reported. 

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