The New Zealand government has introduced the world-first legislation to ban tobacco for future generations, including increasing the purchasing age for cigarettes.
Last Tuesday, the country introduced its new rules to try to create a smoke-free generation by preventing people born in 2009 or later from ever being able to legally buy tobacco. The laws aim at getting smoking prevalence beneath 5% of the adult population within years, and to reduce the number of tobacco shops by 90-95%.
The government is planning to steadily raise the purchasing age for cigarettes so that teenagers will never be able to legally purchase them. The laws target only tobacco products; vaping will remain legal.
Besides increasing the purchasing age for tobacco, the new rules would reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, which would be sold only through tobacco stores. Cigarettes won’t be available at convenience stores and supermarkets anymore.
The laws, which are the first of this kind in the world, have raised a mix of concern and praise for innovation.
Ayesha Verrall, New Zealand associate minister of health, introduced the tobacco legislation for its first reading. The minister committed to break the “disgusting and bizarre” hold of cigarette companies, which maintain their market share by making cigarettes increasingly addictive.
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.Ayesha Verrall, New Zealand associate minister of health.
The minister added that their priority is to introduce a law that protects New Zealand’s families and communities.
Our priority in bringing this bill is protecting what is precious: our people, our whānau [families], our communities.Ayesha Verrall, New Zealand associate minister of health
The legislation is at its first reading stage. Every party supported the bill, with the exception of the libertarian Act party.
However, opposition National MP Matt Doocey highlighted the uncertainty in the outcomes of the new rules. He said that his party had concerns over the untested nature of the laws as most of the measures under consideration have not been implemented anywhere else in the world.
Most of the measures being considered have yet to be widely implemented internationally, and in some cases, New Zealand would be the first in the world to implement them.Matt Doocey, Opposition National MP
The Green party also raised concerns about the untested nature of denicotinisation and about potential criminal prohibition pushing the industry underground. “The Greens have some serious concerns about the potential for a new kind of criminal prohibition”, stressed Chlöe Swarbrick, PM Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In the next stage of the legislative process, MPs will hear the opinion of experts and the public. The law is expected to come into force in 2023.