Smoking kills: New Zealand to ban youth from ever buying cigarettes
In a bid to stamp out smoking, the government of New Zealand has come up with a plan to ban young people of age 14 and under from buying cigarettes in their lifetime. The law, expected to be enacted next year, will prevent anyone born after 2008 from buying cigarettes or tobacco products in the Pacific country.
"We will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth," New Zealand Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
The move is being considered one of the toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry announced by the New Zealand health ministry.
Why the decision?
According to multiple media reports, 11.6 percent of New Zealanders aged over 15 and 13 percent adults smoke cigarettes. The rate goes up to 29 percent among the indigenous Maori adult population.
About 5,000 people in the island nation of five million die due to smoking every year. Smoking is one of New Zealand’s top causes of preventable death, a Reuters report said. Almost four in five smokers start at an early age before 18, the government informed.
The country plans to reduce the national smoking rate to 5 percent by 2025 before eliminating it altogether.
The government has already imposed big tax increases on the sale of tobacco. Higher tax increases will not have any further impact, Verrall said.
"Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking," Reuters quoted Alistair Humphrey, Chair of New Zealand Medical Association, as saying.
How will the rules be enforced?
From 2024, the new restrictions will come into effect in stages. The first step will be a major reduction in the number of authorised sellers. In 2025, the government plans to reduce nicotine requirements and create a "smoke-free" generation from 2027.
As part of the crackdown, the government has also introduced restrictions on where tobacco can be sold in supermarkets and corner stores, BBC reported, adding that the number of shops authorised to sell cigarettes is likely to come down to under 500 from about 8,000 now.
How will the ban work?
Before introducing the legislation in Parliament, the government will work out modalities with a Maori health task force in the coming months. The legislation is likely to be introduced in Parliament in June next year and be made into a law by the end of the same year, news agency Reuters reported.
Health experts welcomed the move that will make New Zealand one of the most restricted tobacco industries in the world. Only Bhutan has a complete ban on the sale of cigarettes.
"It will help people quit or switch to less harmful products, and make it much less likely that young people get addicted to nicotine," the BBC quoted Janet Hook from the University of Otago as saying.