Words: Ellen Kenny
Any Kiwis born after 2008 will never be able to buy a cigarette pack.
New Zealand have introduced unique legislation to phase out tobacco smoking by imposing a lifetime ban on young people buying cigarettes.
According to the new law, anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, cannot ever buy cigarettes, punishable by fines of up to 150,000 New Zealand dollars (90,112.50 euro). They are the first country in the world to introduce this legislation.
This means the minimum smoking age will continue increasing until no one can buy cigarettes. Someone born on December 31, 2008, is 13 right now. If the average life expectancy doesn’t increase, no one in New Zealand will be able to buy a cigarette by 2100.
Health authorities believe that smoking will have faded away by then, anyway, and the current New Zealand government has a goal of phasing out smoking by 2025.
In the interim of smoking going out of style and everyone born before 2009 dying, this law will have interesting consequences; 20 years from now, for example, anyone trying to buy a cigarette will have to prove they are at least 33 years old.
The new law also reduces the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco from about 6,000 to 600, and decreases the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco that is smoked.
“There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it,” associate minister of health Dr Ayesha Verrall told MPs.
“And I can tell you that we will end this in the future, as we pass this legislation.”
She said the bill would create generational change and leave a legacy of better health for young people, and that the health system would save money from not needing to treat illnesses caused by smoking, such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and amputations.
The law does not affect vaping, which has already become more popular than smoking in New Zealand.
Statistics New Zealand reported last month that 8 per cent of New Zealand adults smoked daily, down from 16 per cent 10 years ago. Meanwhile, 8.3 per cent of adults vaped daily, up from fewer than 1% six years ago.
Elsewhere on District: Oireachtas committee recommends decriminalisation of drugs for personal use