New Zealand’s health ministry has said it will ban young people from buying cigarettes for life to curb smoking deaths as part of a wider plan that considers the disproportionate impact on its indigenous Maori population. New Zealand is already one of 17 countries where plain cigarette packaging is compulsory. It also bans sales to anyone under 18, but it says those measures are not enough to reach its goal of a national adult smoking rate of less than 5% by 2025.
Under the law expected to be enacted next year, anyone born after 2008 will not be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime in New Zealand. “We want to make sure young people never start smoking,” said New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall.
While doctors and health experts in the country have welcomed the move, which will reduce access to tobacco and restrict nicotine levels in cigarettes, retailers and tobacco companies have expressed concern about the impact on their businesses and warned of the emergence of a black market. “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,” said Verrall, adding, “If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5%, and this government is not prepared to leave people behind.”
Under the proposed legislation, which the government plans to bring into law by the end of next year, it will first limit the number of stores that can sell cigarettes from 2024. It will then lower the level of nicotine in cigarettes from 2025, to make them easier to quit. Finally, it will bring in the “smoke-free” generation from 2027.