New Zealand will be the first country to effectively ban smoking. Here's their plan to do it.
The government wants the country to be 'smoke-free' by 2025.
The dangers of tobacco are well-known throughout the world but no country has been so bold as to try and stamp it out completely, until now. New Zealand passed a new law on Tuesday, December 13, that would phase out smoking throughout the country. The bill was passed by Parliament by a 76 to 43 margin.
The new law would make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, for their entire lives. So, theoretically, by 2050, a 40-year-old will be too young to buy cigarettes. The goal is to effectively ban tobacco products by 2025.
Advocates for the law say that it will improve the country’s health and reduce the astronomical cost that smoking has on the country’s health system. New Zealand has universal healthcare and provides services to its citizens for free or at a reduced cost. So, the cost of smoking is shared among all its residents whether they smoke or not.
\u201cNew Zealand is planning to ban young people from ever buying cigarettes in their entire lifetime. Under the proposal, people aged 14 and under would never be able allowed to purchase cigarettes while the legal smoking age will keep rising year after year.\u201d— TODAY (@TODAY) 1639053739
Currently, 8% of New Zealand residents smoke daily, which is half the number who smoked a decade ago. However, the percentage is considerably higher among the Indigenous Māori population, of which about 20% are smokers.
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be $5 billion (US$3.25 billion) better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations,” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco. Smoking rates are plummeting,” she added. “Our goal of being smoke-free by 2025 is within reach.”
The bill is a big win for public health, but it has rankled those who believe that tobacco should be a personal choice that isn’t made for people by the state. "No one wants to see people smoke, but the reality is, some will and Labour's nanny state prohibition is going to cause problems," the libertarian ACT party’s Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden said, according to the BBC. Van Velden believes that the ban will create a black market for tobacco and have unintended consequences.
Further, if someone is banned from buying cigarettes they can just ask someone older to purchase a pack for them.
The bill does not affect those who use vape products, which make up about 6% of New Zealand’s population.
The new law will reduce the number of stores authorized to sell tobacco products from about 6,000 down to 600. The legal amount of nicotine will also be dramatically reduced in products to make them less addictive.
Whether one sees the new bill as a massive piece of government overreach or a law that was a long time coming, it will no doubt have a positive effect on public health.
“There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it,” Verrall told lawmakers in Parliament. “And I can tell you that we will end this in the future, as we pass this legislation.”
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