The New Zealand Parliament has now passed a law banning smoking for anyone born after 2008. This law is aimed to reduce the number of smokers in the country to five percent by 2025 and eventually eliminate the practice, BBC reported.
As per numbers released by the New Zealand government, smoking kills about 5,000 people on the island every year and is the top cause of preventable death. As of last year, 11.6 percent of the population above 15 engaged in smoking, while percentages were even higher among the indigenous population.
As many as 29 percent of the Maori and 18 percent of the Pasifika people engage in smoking. The government now intends to reduce smoking to such an extent that an entire generation cannot take up smoking in the country.
The Smokefree Environments Bill
Introduced by Health Minister Ayesh Verrall, the Smokefree Environments Bill is designed to bring in a near-total ban on tobacco starting next year. As per current estimates, the numbers of adults smoking in the country are now at around eight percent. The bill aims to reduce this to less than five percent by 2025.
Furthermore, the bill also has provisions to severely limit the number of retailers selling tobacco products in the country. Currently, as many as 6,000 outlets are authorized for sale but this number is expected to be severely shrunken to 600 in the coming years.
The bill also aims to reduce the nicotine levels in products to non-addictive levels. Put together, the law aims to make cigarettes less addictive, harder to purchase, and permanently unavailable to anyone who is 14 years old or younger. As per provisions of the Bill, by 2050, even a 40-year-old will be too young to buy a cigarette.
Calling the Bill a step towards a smoke-free future, Verrall said, “Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives, and the health system will be NZ$5 billion ($3.2 billion) better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking.”
In the long run, the Health Minister expects this move to close the life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori citizens in the country.
Drawbacks of the Bill
Critics of the Bill have warned that such strict regulation on tobacco products could lead to the proliferation of a black market for tobacco products in the country. It is also unclear how the restrictions apply to tourists who visit the country. Per current customs regulations, visitors can carry 50 cigarettes or 50 grams of tobacco products without paying duties and taxes.
Additionally, the Bill leaves out vaping products, which have seen a sharp rise in the number of users in New Zealand. Reports suggest that as many as 20 percent of high school students who had never smoked in their lives before have taken to vaping on a daily basis with high levels of nicotine.