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New Zealand tobacco ban: Who will be banned from smoking?

New Zealand plans to become “smoke-free” by 2025. As part of that effort legislation was passed to make it illegal for future generations to buy tobacco.

New Zealand passes lifetime ban on tobacco sales
Pascal RossignolREUTERS

New Zealand’s parliament passed one of the strictest laws in the world against selling tobacco products. The legislation forbids selling tobacco to anyone born after 1 January 2009. Those that do will be fined up to NZ$150,000, or roughly equivalent to $96,000 at the current exchange rate.

The package of laws will also slash the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco products by 90 percent. Currently there are 6,000 establishments that can sell tobacco which will be reduced to 600 licensed retailers.

New Zealand plans to be smoke-free by 2025

“This legislation accelerates progress towards a smokefree future,” Dr Ayesha Verrall, the Associate Health Minister, said in a statement. The country is aiming to be smoke-free by 2025, the law intends to prevent future generations of Kiwis from picking up the habit associated with numerous health problems.

“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be $5 billion better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations,” Dr Verrall said.

However, not all of the parliamentarians were onboard with the lifetime ban. ACT New Zealand, a right-wing, classical-liberal party, which holds ten out 120 seats, decried the law as bad for small businesses and that it would send people to search for tobacco on the black market.

“No one wants to see people smoke, but the reality is, some will,” said Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden. “Labour’s nanny state prohibition is going to cause problems.”

Few New Zealanders currently smoke

New Zealand boasts one of the lowest rates of adult smokers in the world. Around eight percent of the nation’s 5.1 million people smoke compared to 25 percent in France. Over the past decade the number of Kiwis smoking fell by half, and in only the past year 56,000 quit the habit.

However, without this legislation the Associate Health Minister said that the nation risked leaving behind certain portions of the population such as the Māori, Pacific and low-income communities where smoking is particularly prevalent. “If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5 percent, and this Government is not prepared to leave people behind,” said Dr Verrall.

The legislation is expected to help close the life expectancy gap, which can be as high as 25 percent, between Maori and non-Maori citizens.

The new legislation doesn’t cover vaping though which is gaining in popularity. Over the past year more adults have taken to the alternative to smoking with 8.3 percent now vaping daily according to official data compared to 6.2 percent the previous year.


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