Updated Dec 9, 2021 - Health

New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation with tobacco ban

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks alongside the Spider Monkey Enclosure at the Auckland Zoo on December 01, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a December news conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand officials announced Thursday legislative plans to outlaw smoking by making it illegal to sell or supply tobacco products to the next generation as part of a lifetime ban.

Why it matters: "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement announcing the proposed law, part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

  • Verrall said smoking is "the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancers."
  • University of Auckland Public Health Professor Chris Bullen said in a statement the government introducing an amendment bill that would also allow only very low nicotine levels in smoked tobacco products would be "a world-first."

How it works: The government was expected to introduce a bill in 2022 to Parliament, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party holds a single-party majority.

  • The government would progressively lift the smoking age from 18, beginning in 2027.
  • The number of stores permitted to sell cigarettes would be cut from roughly 8,000 to fewer than 500, according to the plan.

The big picture: NZ adopted vaping in 2017 as a means to help smokers quit, the BBC notes.

  • The government introduced vaping regulations last year, including prohibiting the sale or supply of such products to people younger than 18 years old.

Between the lines: "Reducing the number of shops selling tobacco especially in low-income areas will help to reduce youth smoking and restrict availability," Bullen said.

  • "Retailers will have to be 'authorized' to sell tobacco and won't be able to be concentrated in the areas of highest deprivation," he continued.
  • "But perhaps the next most bold idea is to introduce an amendment bill to prohibit the sale and supply of cigarettes to people born after a certain date, thus creating a 'smokefree generation.'"

The bottom line: Ardern said at a news conference Thursday that the legislation was designed to prevent young people from ever taking up smoking.

  • "Half of those who take up smoking die from its effects," she said.

What they're saying: Associations representing small stores that sell tobacco say they want compensation for loss of business and have expressed concerns that street gangs could sell cigarettes on the black market alongside illicit drugs when the law takes effect.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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