Last May, the New Zealand government proposed to make the country smoke-free by 2025, including making smoking illegal. This new approach aimed at reducing the number of casualties from tobacco, which remains the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and accounts for about 4,500 deaths per year. On Thursday, New Zealand announced a plan to increase the age for buying tobacco. In the long term, this plan will make smoking more and more complicated and it will eventually ban the sale of tobacco.
To date, New Zealand law prohibits people under the age of 18 from purchasing tobacco. However, Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall revealed that starting from 2027, the age limit will increase by one every year. If the implementation of the plan runs smoothly, future generations will never be able to legally buy tobacco. “We want to make sure people never start smoking… as they age, they and future generations will never be able to legally purchase tobacco, because the truth is there is no safe age to start smoking,” said the Minister.
The Minister specified that the government will also adopt a law to reduce the number of places allowed to sell tobacco. Tobacco-selling places will also be authorized to sell products containing a low level of nicotine in order to reduce the risk of addiction. Minister Verrall pointed out that the measures will allow New Zealand to maintain its role as a global leader in tobacco control, as manifested in past decisions, such as banning cigarette sponsorship of sports in 1990 and banning smoking from bars in 2004.
The measures were welcomed by the group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). According to Robert Beaglehole, president of ASH, New Zealand will be at the forefront of tobacco control in the world and it will become a model for other countries fighting against the death caused by tobacco.
However, British American Tobacco New Zealand criticized the measures, claiming that they were without any scientific evidence of effectiveness. “The combined impacts are effectively a gradual prohibition, which simply pushes supply underground to the black market,” said the company in a statement.