On Thursday, December 9, 2021, the New Zealand government announced a plan to gradually raise the age at which tobacco products can be purchased. “For the first time in the world”, which aims to ban the sale of tobacco in the long term.
Currently, New Zealanders under the age of 18 are not allowed to buy tobacco products in accordance with current regulations. This age limit will be increased by one year each year as part of the action plan to combat smoking until 2025, New Zealand Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said.
“We want to make sure that people never start smoking… When they [young people born before 2008] get older, they [and future generations] will never be able to legally buy tobacco,” she said in a video broadcast by the New Zealand Stuff website. The minister said that the government will also adopt a law limiting the number of places where tobacco is sold and allowing only products with low nicotine content to be sold in order to reduce the risk of addiction.
Ayesha Verrall stressed that these measures will allow New Zealand to maintain its role as a world leader in tobacco control. In 1990, New Zealand banned the tobacco industry from sponsoring sports, and in 2004 banned smoking in bars.
Goal: never start smoking
In the US – where smoking causes more than 400,000 deaths each year — the law prohibits the sale of tobacco to persons under 21. According to a recent study, this ban significantly reduces tobacco consumption, especially since the vast majority of smokers start smoking before the age of 21. The target age for a law that will allow people to never start smoking.
Researchers from Yale University studied the impact of the “Tobacco 21” policy and found that it reduces the likelihood that an 18-20-year-old will become a heavy smoker. It is unclear what effect this law will have in the long term…
Worldwide, smoking kills about 7 million people a year, and more than 890,000 people are exposed to secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization says that if current trends continue, smoking could cause 8 million deaths by 2030.
Tobacco: the main cause of preventable death
These are alarming figures that explain the adoption of laws against smoking, as, for example, in New Zealand, where smoking remains the main cause of preventable death. The Minister also stressed that the damage to health is especially great in the Maori and Pacific communities, where the smoking rate is about twice as high as the other 13.5% of the population.
The government wants to reduce this figure to 5% by 2025 and claims that this achievable goal will allow the health system to save 5.5 billion New Zealand dollars in costs.
However, this law may lead to a curious situation where 65 years after its entry into force, New Zealanders will still be able to buy cigarettes if they can prove that they are over 80 years old! Although it is very likely that by that time and as a result of the implementation of the law, stores across the country will stop selling tobacco due to low demand.