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New Zealand bans smoking

It will stop young people from ever buying cigarettes

Published : 10 Dec 2021 09:12 PM

New Zealand is banning young people from ever being allowed to buy cigarettes in a rolling program that aims to make the entire country smoke-free by 2025, reports Dailymail.

No-one under the age of 14 will ever be allowed to buy cigarettes in their lifetime in a desperate bid to eradicate smoking from the country.

Each year the age limit will be increased until it's illegal for the entire nation under NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's radical plan. 

'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,' associate health minister Ayesha Verrall said on Thursday. 

The move comes as a new poll reveals most Australians want a total ban on all cigarette sales in shops.

Under the new NZ restrictions, Dr Verrall said: 'People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.

'We are also reducing the appeal, addictiveness and availability of smoked tobacco products.

Under the new proposals, young people aged under 14 will never be allowed to buy cigarettes in New Zealand.

Each year that age limit will increase, expanding the percentage of the population who will never legally be allowed to smoke.

The minimum age to buy cigarettes in New Zealand remains 18 for the moment.

The government is also restricting the number of shops allowed to sell cigarettes.

Just 500 nationwide will be issued with a licence, similar to a bottle shop's licence to sell alcohol.

The nicotine strength in cigarettes is also being reduced in a bid to tackle their addictiveness.

Cigarettes prices have gone up 10 per cent every year between 2011 and 2020 but that alone was not stopping smokers. 

Eventually - with existing smokers dying - health officials hope to see the entire country smoke-free.

'New laws will mean only smoked tobacco products containing very low-levels of nicotine can be sold, with a significant reduction in the number of shops who can sell them.'

The new rules will not come into effect immediately to allow retailers to transition away from relying on cigarette sales, said Dr Verrall.

Read more: ‘Bring low, medium tiers of cigarettes under specific tax’

Just 500 shops nationwide will be allowed to sell cigarettes once the new legislation is implemented, and will need to apply for a licence similar to a bottle shop's licence to sell alcohol.

The national target is to have just five per cent or less of the New Zealand population still smoking by 2025. 

As part of the strategy, cigarette prices have increased by 10 per cent every year for the 10 years between 2011 and 2020, but no further tax hikes are now proposed.

The price hike has seen the creation of a black market for cigarettes and there has also been a spike in crime with groups targeting stores selling cigarettes.

A packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes in New Zealand now costs around NZ$33 but that strategy alone was failing to have the impact needed to hit the 2025 target.

Research found the Maori population would not hit the target until 2061 without the radical steps now being taken.

New Zealand Medical Association said it was thrilled the next generation won’t join the more than 80 per cent of smokers who wish they never started.

'The Smokefree generation policy will be a defining moment,' NZMA Chair Dr Alistair Humphrey said on Thursday. 

'Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking.

'This action plan offers some hope of realising our 2025 Smokefree goal.'

The age group plan is part of a wider strategy with strict limits on smoking and vaping areas, bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorships, and uniform packaging.

Australia has taken similar steps in curbing cigarette smoking and led the world with its plain packaging and shocking warnings.

But a new poll published by the Medical Journal of Australia last month has now backed a total ban on cigarette sales as the next step in the war on smoking. 

Almost 53 per cent surveyed supported phasing out all cigarette sales in retail outlets.

'Sometimes the public is ahead of the policy,' tobacco expert Coral Gartner, associate professor at University of Queensland wrote in the MJA.

'Cigarettes do not meet modern consumer product safety standards.'

She said the NZ proposals were 'innovative and make Australia look like we are lagging behind.

'We need to start having the same conversations in Australia now because there are details that need to be considered,' she added.

'We don't want to criminalise people, and we don't want people with addiction having difficulty quitting and finding an illicit supply. 

'So we need to start doing research now and consulting on acceptable alternative options.'

Retail tobacco sales are controlled by individual states and territories in Australia.

In 2012, Tasmania considered a similar ban to New Zealand's, with a proposal to outlaw cigarette sales to anyone born after 2000.

A parliamentary committee found there was no 'significant legal impediment' but the plan never became law.

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