As part of a set of new anti-smoking legislation voted by parliament on Tuesday, December 13, it will be illegal for future generations of New Zealanders to buy tobacco.
The new regulations prohibit the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, with penalties of up to NZ$150,000 ($95,910) in fines. The prohibition will last a person’s entire life.
Additionally, the Act will lower the quantity of nicotine permitted in smoked tobacco products and reduce the number of tobacco merchants by 90%.
Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said, “This legislation speeds the move toward a smoke-free future.”
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives, and the health system will be $5 billion better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations.”
The number of permitted cigarette retailers will be reduced to 600 by 2023, down from 6,000.
New Zealand, which already has one of the lowest adult smoking rates among the 38 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is tightening anti-smoking policies in an effort to declare the country “smoke-free” by 2025.
Only Bhutan, which banned the selling of cigarettes in 2010, will have more stringent anti-smoking legislation.
In the previous decade, the percentage of adult New Zealanders who smoke has decreased by half to 8%, with 56,000 quitting in the past year. According to OECD data, 25% of French adults smoked in 2021.
The disparity in life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori citizens can reach as high as 25% for women, according to Verrall.
ACT New Zealand, which owns ten of the 120 members in the New Zealand parliament, denounced the measure, claiming that it will decimate small businesses and push people to turn to the illegal market.
“No one wants to see people smoke, but the reality is some will. And Labour’s nanny state prohibition is going to cause problems,” added Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden.
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