New Zealand’s government believes it has devised a one-of-a-kind scheme to eliminate tobacco smoking: a lifelong ban for children under the age of 14.
The minimum age to buy cigarettes will continue to rise year after year under a new rule unveiled by the administration on Thursday and expected to be passed next year.
That implies, at least in principle, buyers could still buy cigarettes 65 years after the rule takes effect — but only if they could show they were at least 80 years old.
Officials anticipate that smoking will be phased out decades before then. Indeed, by 2025, the strategy aims to reduce smoking to less than 5% of New Zealanders.
The proposal also calls for only the sale of tobacco products with very low nicotine levels and a reduction in the number of retailers that can sell them. The modifications would be phased in over time to allow shops to respond.
Because New Zealand’s existing minimum age for purchasing cigarettes is 18, a lifetime smoking ban for minors would have little effect for a few years.
New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall, who is pushing the proposal, told The Associated Press that her job at a public hospital in Wellington included informing some smokers that they had contracted cancer.
“Every day, you encounter someone who is suffering from the effects of cigarettes,” Verrall remarked. “The most heinous ways for individuals to die. Tobacco causes shortness of breath.”
In New Zealand, smoking rates have been gradually declining for years, with just approximately 11% of persons smoking presently and 9% smoking every day. Indigenous Maori continue to have a substantially higher daily rate, at 22 percent. A taskforce would be established under the government’s proposal to help Maori quit smoking.
Cigarette taxes have already been raised significantly in recent years, prompting some to wonder why they haven’t been raised much more.
“We don’t believe that more tax rises will have any effect,” Verrall stated. “Quitting is really difficult, and we believe that if we did so, we would be punishing individuals who are hooked to cigarettes much more.”
She also claimed that the tax measures disproportionately affect low-income individuals, who are more prone to smoke.
Vaping would be unaffected by the new regulation. Tobacco smoking, according to Verrall, is significantly more dangerous and continues to be a top cause of needless deaths in New Zealand, with up to 5,000 people dying each year.
“We believe vaping is an excellent cessation strategy,” she stated.
In New Zealand, the sale of vaping items is already restricted to individuals aged 18 and over, and vaping is prohibited in schools. According to Verrall, there is some indication of a surge in young vaping, which she is “very interested in.”
She claims that New Zealand’s method of prohibiting cigarette smoking among the next generation has not been replicated abroad.
However, she claims that studies have proven that raising the minimum age reduces youth purchases. The statutory minimum age to purchase tobacco products in the United States was raised from 18 to 21 two years ago.
While most public health professionals have praised New Zealand’s strategy, not everyone is pleased.
Some stores, according to Sunny Kaushal, may go out of business. Kaushal is the chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, which represents roughly 5,000 corner shops and service stations in New Zealand.
He stated, “We all want a smoke-free New Zealand.” “However, this will have a significant impact on small firms.” It should not be done this way because it is ruining dairies, lives, and families. It’s not the right path.”
According to Kaushal, cigarette price rises have already created an underground market that gangs are exploiting, and the situation will only become worse. He said that smoking was already in its decline in New Zealand and will eventually fade out on its own.
“Academics are driving this,” he added, noting that stakeholders had not been consulted.
However, Verrall believes the government is not going too far because data indicate that the great majority of smokers want to stop anyhow, and the new rules will only help them do so.
She said that the epidemic had given people a new awareness for the benefits of public health initiatives and community mobilization, and that this energy could be used to combat not only smoking but also ailments like diabetes.
Verrall said that she had never smoked, but that her late grandmother had, and that it had harmed her health.
Verrall described the product as “very harsh.”