New Zealand Has Unusual Way to Get Nation to Quit Smoking

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, is banned from buying tobacco—ever in their lifetime
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2022 9:45 AM CST
New Zealand Has Unusual Way to Get Nation to Quit Smoking
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Doucefleur)

New Zealand is trying to set a path for the nation to eventually eliminate smoking, and it's got an ambitious plan to do so. ABC Australia reports on a new law that bans young people now—or ever—from buying tobacco products, with lawmakers in Parliament passing the new legislation in a 76-43 vote on Tuesday, the AP reports. The law, which will take effect in 2023, mandates that tobacco can't be sold to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, even as those youths get older and become adults. The news agency explains the unusual math on the plan like this: "In theory, somebody trying to buy a pack of cigarettes 50 years from now would need ID to show they were at least 63 years old."

Violating the law, which doesn't include vaping, could lead to fines of up to $141,000 or so, per ABC Australia. The Guardian notes the progressively rising smoking age is believed to be the first of its kind worldwide, with an accompanying goal to make New Zealand "smoke-free" by 2025. As for overall smoking bans, only Bhutan appears to be stricter than New Zealand on this front: That country banned the sale of cigarettes completely in 2010, though it lifted the ban in 2020 to tamp down on the demand for black-market cigarettes during the pandemic, as that created a risk of smugglers crossing into the country with the coronavirus. That fear of a black market is what has some critics saying the New Zealand ban won't work, likening it to Prohibition in the US and saying it would put small businesses that rely on cigarette sales out of business.

"There won't be better outcomes for New Zealanders," a member of the country's ACT libertarian party tells ABC. Dr. Ayesha Verrall, the nation's associate minister for health, disagrees. "There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it," she told lawmakers, noting that the legislation would lead to savings in the billions of dollars, as it would cut way down on the treatment of conditions caused by smoking, including cancer, strokes, and heart attacks, per the AP. The new laws will also slash the number of retailers selling tobacco by 90% by the end of next year—there are currently about 6,000, which will reduce to 600—as well as decrease the allowable amount of nicotine in tobacco products that are smoked. (More New Zealand stories.)

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