New Zealand’s Health Minister, Dr. Ayesha Verrall has introduced a bill to place a ban on the sales and use of tobacco for future generations in a bid to drive the country “towards a smoke-free future”, she said.
The country is one among the 38 (countries) that already boasts of the lowest adult smoking rates in the world. The administration is further tightening the antismoking laws by passing the worlds’ first ever tobacco law to make the country smoke free by 2025.
This bill is said to be among the strictest in the world as it is punishable by fines up to NZ$150,000 and will remain throughout a person’s whole life. The new legislation also involves the prohibition of sales of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
This will also cut down the number of retailers who would be able to sell this product by 90% – from 6,000 to 600 by the end of 2023 – which equally implies that the number of people who have the means to buy tobacco will radically reduce by the years to come.
“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. Verall said in a statement.
Recent statistics released by the New Zealand government has shown a drastic reduction in tobacco consumption with only 8% of adults who smoke daily this year as against 9.4% as at last year. Actions are still being put in place to reduce its accessibility and affordability, as well as shrinking the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products and limiting its sale to only licensed and specialty tobacco stores instead of corner stores and supermarkets.
While smoking rates are significantly falling to the lowest on world record, vaping is actually on the rise and data indicates that some New Zealanders have switched their nicotine habits from cigarettes to vapes. The rise in daily use of vapes was however larger than the drop in daily smokers; 8.3% of adults are now vaping daily, up from 6.2% in the past year. Regardless, the new law does not restrict the sales of vapes.
While introducing the law for its first reading in July, Verrall said: “For decades we have permitted tobacco companies to maintain their market share by making their deadly product more and more addictive. It is disgusting and it is bizarre. We have more regulations in this country on the safety of the sale of a sandwich than on a cigarette.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”