Anyone born after 2008 will never be able to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products thanks to legislation that the parliament approved on Tuesday. It will result in a reduction in the population that can purchase tobacco each year. For instance, 40-year-olds won’t be able to purchase cigarettes in 2050.
The bill’s author, Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, called it a step “towards a smoke-free future.”
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be NZ$5 billion (US$3.2 billion) better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking,” Dr Verrall said.
By 2025, it is hoped that the Smokefree Environments Bill will bring that percentage down to less than 5%, with the ultimate goal of doing away with the practice entirely.
The bill also aims to reduce nicotine levels in products to make them less addictive and limit the number of retailers permitted to sell smoked tobacco products to 600 nationwide from the current 6,000.
“It means nicotine will be reduced to non-addictive levels and communities will be free from the proliferation and clustering of retailers who target and sell tobacco products in certain areas,” Dr Verrall said.
She added that the legislation could close the life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori citizens. The overall smoking rate for Maori citizens is at 19.9% – down from last year’s figure of 22.3%.
The new legislation does not ban vape products, which have become far more popular among younger generations than cigarettes.
Critics of the bill – including the ACT party which holds 10 seats in parliament – have warned that the policy could fuel a black market in tobacco products and kill off small shops.
“No one wants to see people smoke, but the reality is, some will and Labour’s nanny state prohibition is going to cause problems,” said ACT Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden.