Unpacking New Zealand’s Cigarette Ban

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We’ve known for a while that this habit is pretty bad for us.

And yet despite that, cigarettes have never been totally banned anywhere across the world.

But that might be about to change after New Zealand announced its plans to completely ban smoking for future generations.

What Will The Ban Actually Look Like?

The ban isn’t something that will happen overnight.

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government will introduce the new legislation in 2022.

And it will progressively raise the legal smoking age – which is currently 18 – by one year each year.

That means if you’re 14 when the laws come into effect, you’ll never legally be allowed to buy a pack of cigarettes.

In other words, the law effectively bans the sale of tobacco to people born after 2008.

The world-leading legislation will kick in by 2023, with other measures expected soon after.

Like reducing the number of shops that will be allowed to sell tobacco from 2024.

And from 2025, only smoked tobacco products containing very low levels of nicotine will be able to be legally sold.

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall: “This plan builds on the good work of quit programs by drastically reducing the availabilities of cigarettes, by making them less addictive, and by reducing a smoke-free generation.”

How New Zealand Has Reacted

Chris Bullen, who’s a Professor of Public Health at the University of Auckland, has described the government’s plan as a potential game-changer – especially the move to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes.

He thinks it could be the “single most significant step” New Zealand has taken in “reducing preventable death and disease”.

Even Cancer Society chief executive said earlier this year that proposals of this kind go beyond helping people to quit.

There are concerns about a growth in the black market for tobacco, which the NZ labour government acknowledged in its initial proposals, but it is still unclear how it plans to tackle it.

Other experts have flagged that reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes could lead to people stocking up and buying more – which could place extra financial strain on low-income earners who are statistically more likely to smoke.

Reasons Behind The Ban

But New Zealand has always had the ultimate goal of becoming smoke-free by 2025.

The government has been campaigning to reduce smoking in NZ to less than 5% in all population groups, since 2011.

Even with stats as low as 10% smoking prevalence among New Zealander’s European population, 28% of people among the Maori population and 18% for Pacific people still smoke.

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall: “We know that majority of smokers want to quit but they can struggle to do so on their own.”

Will The Rest Of The World Follow?

It’s predicted that half of people who take up smoking end up dying from its effects, and it’s estimated 8 million people die each year from tobacco.

Australia has also been a world leader for tobacco reforms, particularly around mandating plain packaging of tobacco products to reduce their appeal a decade ago.

But leading public health researchers believe the Australian government should follow in New Zealand’s footsteps and set a date for banning the sale of cigarettes through retailers like supermarkets.

As for the rest of the world, The Netherlands has already passed laws to stop supermarkets from selling ciggies from 2024.

Meanwhile Californian cities Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach ended tobacco sales earlier this year.