New Zealand plans to ban young people from buying cigarettes during their lifetime as part of one of the world’s toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish the smoking was taking too long.
People aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to buy cigarettes in the Pacific nation of five million people, part of the proposals unveiled Thursday that will also reduce the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco and reduce nicotine levels in all products.
“We want to make sure that young people never start smoking, so we will criminalize the sale or supply of smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of young people,” Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
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Currently, 11.6 percent of all New Zealanders over the age of 15 smoke, a proportion that reaches 29 percent among indigenous Maori adults, according to government figures.
The government will consult with a Maori task force on health over the next few months before tabling a bill in parliament in June next year, with the aim of having it passed by the end of 2022.
The restrictions would then be rolled out in stages from 2024, starting with a sharp reduction in the number of authorized sellers, followed by a reduction in nicotine requirements in 2025 and the creation of the “smoke-free” generation from 2027. .
The package will make New Zealand’s retail tobacco industry one of the smallest in the world, just behind Bhutan where the sale of cigarettes is outright banned. New Zealand’s neighbor Australia was the first country in the world to impose plain packaging on cigarettes in 2012.
The New Zealand government has said that while existing measures such as plain packaging and sales taxes have slowed tobacco consumption, stricter measures are needed to meet its target of less than 5% of the population smoking daily. by 2025.
The new rules would cut smoking rates in the country by half in as little as 10 years from their entry into force, the government said.
Smoking kills around 5,000 people a year in New Zealand, making it one of the leading preventable causes of death in the country. Four in five smokers started before the age of 18, the country’s government said.