New Zealand bans the sale of cigarettes to people born in 2009 or later

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New Zealand issued a sales ban on Tuesday tobacco products for anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, promoting an ambitious plan to create a smoke-free nation that could pave the way for similar policies in other parts of the world.

New Zealand already bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18, but the new law changes effectively establish a movable age limit that will permanently ban the sale of tobacco to the country’s youngest and future generations. Those born before 2009 who are 18 years of age or older are still allowed to buy tobacco.

“This law will create a generational shift and leave our youth with a legacy of better health,” Deputy Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said on Tuesday.

Under the new changes, retailers who sell tobacco to people born on or after January 1, 2009 – people who are around 13 years of age or younger today – will face fines of up to NZ$150,000, or around US$96,000 calculate. The ban comes into effect on January 1, 2027, when those born in 2009 will turn 18.

The legislation also overhauls several existing tobacco laws, reducing the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco in New Zealand to 600 and imposing stricter nicotine limits on smoked tobacco products.

“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the healthcare system will be $5 billion better off if it doesn’t have to treat the diseases caused by smoking, including numerous cancers, heart attacks, strokes and amputations,” Verrall said in a press release .

The ban comes as other countries consider similar tobacco control proposals. Ireland and Wales have set similar targets to make their countries smoke-free within the decade.

In March, Denmark presented a proposal to ban tobacco sales to those born after 2010, but European Union laws prevented it from enacting the ban. Bhutan enacted a blanket ban on tobacco products in 2010, but an underground market began to thrive there and the government temporarily lifted its ban in the first year of the year Pandemic.

The New Zealand bill passed Parliament 76-43 with support from left-wing parties, including the leading Labor Party. Members of the right-wing New Zealand National and ACT New Zealand voted against the ban.

An ACT leader dubbed the new measures a “nanny-state ban” during Tuesday’s parliamentary session.

The new laws come as the New Zealand government nears a self-imposed deadline for a decade-long commitment to eliminate smoking, which began after an investigation by the Committee on Māori Affairs in 2010. The committee investigating issues affecting the country’s indigenous people reported on the health effects of tobacco and its disproportionate toll on the Māori population. In 2011, the government pledged to reduce smoking to under 5 percent of the population by 2025.

New Zealand aims to ban smoking by ensuring young teenagers today are never old enough to buy cigarettes

According to a report by the Ministry of Health, smoking rates in New Zealand have been steadily declining since then. Eight percent of adults in the country smoke daily, according to the New Zealand Health Survey, although the smoking rate among the Māori population remains higher at 19.9 percent.

Tuesday’s legislation follows years of annual tax hikes on tobacco products and requires health warnings to be placed on tobacco packaging, while alternatives like vaping have gained popularity. Still, the data showed that without more drastic action, New Zealand would miss its target, said Nick Wilson, who studies tobacco control at New Zealand’s University of Otago.

“There has been progress, but not fast enough,” Wilson said.

Wilson said several factors could help New Zealand enforce its ban: The country lacks a large domestic tobacco growing base and as an island nation it can more easily protect its borders from illegal imports.

The generational ban on tobacco sales may not be the most important part of the new laws either, Wilson added. Clinical studies suggest that limiting nicotine levels in tobacco products will be more effective in reducing smoking rates, Wilson said. Less nicotine can make smoking less satisfying for some, and that “drastically improves cessation rates,” he said.

If New Zealand’s attempt to go smoke-free succeeds, it will next have to tackle the most popular alternative: vaping. Underage vaping has increased in recent years and is also widespread Action for Smokefree 2025 was held among Māori teenagers in November.

“If New Zealand has generally done well on tobacco control, it has taken a fairly laissez-faire approach to vaping until recently,” Wilson said. “Maybe there needs to be a vaping endgame for New Zealand too.”

Rachel Pannett contributed to this report.

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