New Zealand has taken a major swing in the war on tobacco. Their goal? To eliminate smoking in their country – forever. This week, they passed legislation that forbids anyone from selling tobacco products to people born after January 1, 2009. Anyone caught doing so will be fined the equivalent of almost $96,000. The idea is that if young people have no access to cigarettes, they won’t start smoking. Then, when the older people quit or die, presumably from lung cancer or heart disease, eventually there will be no more smokers. And NZ believes this will take only two years.
New Zealand plans to be almost smoke-free in just two years.
On Tuesday, New Zealand Parliament passed the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill that was first introduced in June and will now enact changes to the distribution of tobacco in the country.
The new legislation prohibits the sale of smoked tobacco products to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009. Any tobacco retailer who goes against the regulation is scheduled to a fine up to NZ $150,000 ($95,910).
As part of the crackdown, the country is now enforcing a strict application process for retailers to be approved to sell tobacco products, capping the number of retailers who can sell tobacco down to 600.
The country hopes to prevent young people from smoking with the new law and is working to reduce daily smoking to under 5 percent for all population groups across the country by 2025.
Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall, who first introduced the bill, stressed its significance during one of its final readings on Dec. 8.
“It is not every day that members get to vote on legislation that is as life-saving, as life-extending, and as life-changing, as this bill. This legislation will help save thousands of lives a year,” she expressed.
“There are 4500 people who die of tobacco in New Zealand each year and it is our leading preventable cause of death. There is no even overselling what a difference it will make for people. We have the chance once and for all to take control of a product so deeply, that it kills half the people that use it.”
She added while speaking to the proposed effects of the bill signing: “Even COVID or the 1918 influenza pandemic cannot compete with the death toll that tobacco extracts on our people.”
“Tobacco has done no good once so ever, and we have the chance to get rid of it,” she later stressed in front of members of the New Zealand Parliament.
I’ll be fascinated to see how this plays out. I’m sure many countries will. Conceptually, it seems like a solid start. Granted, underage people find a way to get products bought for them, but this is a different beast. Eventually, no one will be able to buy tobacco products because you can’t age out of this legislation. What is this going to do for international travel? Will Duty Free become a black market for cigs for those traveling to NZ? But the NZ’s government’s point is a good one, there are no benefits to smoking. It does deserve to be stubbed out by any means necessary.
FYI, although cannabis is prevalent in NZ, it is still illegal. They thought it would be decriminalized in 2020 but the pandemic seems to have affected that vote.
If NZ is successful in banning cigarettes, this could have major ripple effects all over. To what degree of success, I don’t know. The US tobacco lobby is crazy powerful, like the stupid gun lobby. It’ll take time and everyone will have to address how vaping fits in to this, but maybe its a start, like I said.
Photos credit: Umair Sulaiman, Mikotoraw and Cottonbro on pexels
That’s smart. They’ll save lives and reduce pressure on the public health system. Win-win.
It sounds like the tobacco lobby must be somewhat powerful in NZ, otherwise why not ban cigarettes altogether? And what about the lives of those born before 2009, not to mention second-hand smoke.
Quitting smoking is hard, and I bet it would create a huge weight on the health system if everyone stopped the same time. What would be better was to tax them to the hilt so that they are prohibitively expensive and those outside of that age range will quit on their own.
High blood pressure, strokes, lung cancer and heart attacks are also a burden on the health care system – counseling and nicotine patches can’t be that more expensive. The thing I see is that governments want to stop smoking, but not shut down the tobacco industry and still keep collecting the taxes on tobacco sales.
@eurydice: for sure, I’m not arguing that. But the thing is, and this is just pragmatism here, it’s not everyone all at once. I remember when I stopped smoking (ten years ago now yay me!) it was HELL. First, I couldn’t stop when I wanted because I was also depressed and the doc said stopping would make it worse. Then when she finally said it was ok to stop, I promise you I had a bit of a break. I liken it to stopping a crack habit – your body completely breaks down before you can build it up again. So no, it wasn’t just counselling and patches. It was HELL. And yes, I understand that it’s different for everyone, but If the entire country of smokers goes through a version of that at once? No way they can handle it. Better to phase it out.
We already do tax them to the hilt (living in NZ). Unfortunately that’s leading to more poverty as people can’t quit, and also to crime when people try to steal ciggies from corner shops.
I don’t disagree with what the govt is doing at all, but getting addicted people off cigarettes is really difficult.
There’s already a massive black market in tobacco, and a fair bit of crime to fund the habit, and an outright ban would just lead to that expanding. There’s already a lot of tax on cigarettes, to the point that a standard pack is more than $30, which is only easily affordable to the very wealthy. There are cheaper options (it’s legal to grow your own for personal use, but illegal to sell to others), but the cost causes a lot of hardship.
The idea is to leave current users alone, encourage them towards options like the government-subsidised quit programme, but heavily reduce the next generation, phase it out without suddenly cutting off a whole lot of addicts.
I wish cigarettes could be banned everywhere (and soda too!), but I don’t think it’s practical. It will create a dangerous black market. Kudos to NZ for at least trying to do something about it though.
I have a bad Diet Coke habit. I have tried to quit so many times. I can only imagine quitting something like smoking… I definitely think they need to phase things out. Otherwise you’d have an entire country completely losing it at the same time and that’s not safe or healthy.
They’re smart to try and starve the market of future customers rather than an immediate ban that forces people to quit or seek desperate ways to get them.
If people never start, it’s never a thing they need, legal or otherwise. No one not already addicted is going to jump through the hoops of seeking black market cigarettes.
My husband and I have been wondering why countries haven’t done this yet. I understand not cutting off people who are addicted but why would a young person ever start?
Smart move NZ.
I hate smoking and smokers (sorry nothing personal – it just smells vile to me and there’s nothing I used to hate more than being sat next to a smoker at a social occasion – particularly the way they would hold the cigarette so the smoke would be out of their face and in mine instead!) – so I really have no issue in theory with there being no smokers. But I’m not sure how I feel about controlling people in this way.. what about how many lives alcohol destroys?
Agreed! Smoking is vile and disgusting. I cannot with smokers. I think alcohol has a lot of bad health effects too – however I do have a couple of glasses a week. So this is where I get a little nervous – controlling what people can and cannot do to their own bodies in the privacy of their home – what is to stop them from banning alcohol?
Again, i am happy for NZ and this ban but it just makes you wonder what could be next? Remember during the prohibition era – when alcohol was banned – that didnt work out too well…haha.
In Canada 80% of us drink and 13% of us smoke. I’d call alcohol the bigger problem by far. Talk about preventable deaths.
I remember when federal law ended smoking in prisons. The masses were predicting riots everywhere, which didn’t happen.
It is a valid question — I remember when New York (I think?) banned the large soda sizes because obesity etc. and these very questions came up. To my knowledge there has been no appreciable change in body habitus related to that ban.
That’s because a larger body will just adapt and maintain its current weight with what you are currently eating. The current state of “obesity research” is garbage. “Calories in, calories out” is close to meaningless with as complex a biological system as the human body.
Vile and disgusting? I mean, my father died of lung cancer when I was 12 from smoking and I occasionally do. Why do you care so much about cigarettes that you would call the people who use them vile and disgusting? Find something else.
Because smoking cigarettes affects far more than just the person smoking it?
@scred, agreed. My mother died of lung cancer too, I feel like these are the same people that would say, “that’s what you get.” Cigarettes were basically fed to people decades ago and it’s a hard habit to quit.
The smell of cigarettes is totally gross. Vaping is just as bad though if not worse, because people can hide it and you may not realize you’re being exposed. The chemicals in those cartridges cause lung scarring and asthma, cough, headaches and dry mouth. Both smoking and vaping also interefere with brain development in kids and teens and aggravate mental health issues, and because vape cartridges have more nicotine than cigarettes, they can have even more impact.
think of all the waste reduction, too! I’m always amazed at how smokers just throw their butts on the ground, as if they don’t count as garbage.
I don’t understand the two year goal. Anyone currently over the age of 14 still has a lifetime of smoking ahead of them. Seems like this plan will take about 60-70 more years to phase out smoking.
If you really want to get fired up, do some research on how tobacco companies market to poorer countries, since sales and sentiments are dropping in more developed nations like New Zealand.
They target places with little to no regulations, inadequate healthcare and education, and millions and millions of potential customers that have no clue of the dangers.
It’s abhorrent, and I hope everyone involved gets to experience the pain of end-stage lung cancer and death up close.
I’m from NZ and every time I go to a GP appointment I have to confirm my smoking status. I’ve never smoked, but still, every time I go I sign a small form confirming my details including my smoking status.
With a prescription you can get a month’s supply of nicotine replacement therapy for $5, plus free repeats (my repeats for other medications are either for another month, but usually two months.)
GP appointments are relatively easy and comparatively cheap to get here. I don’t think I’ve every had to wait more than a week to get a GP appointment, and it usually cost me about $30(NZ).
There’s a government run organisation called Smokefree that will help you get off cigarettes for no charge and will get you free nicotine replacement therapy.
You can also buy nicotine gums from the supermarket and pharmacies. I’ve also seen vaping cartridges at pharmacies to help people get off smoking.
Quitting smoking is always going to be brutal, but there are systems in place to help people.
WOW!!! A country prioritizing health and quality of life over business and money?!?!?! I never thought I’d see it!!! Way to show us how it’s done NZ!!! That’s awesome!! Thank you, NZ, for blazing the trail.
Cigarette smoke really, really aggravates my allergies, and if I’m around I have problems for a few days afterwards, so I’m all for reducing smoking, especially in public areas.
On one hand I love this as I hate cigarettes and the smoke and the health issues. On the other hand, kind of feels like the government should let people make their own decisions. IDK, I’m definitely conflicted and want to see how this goes.
Wish they would do that here, but then there’d be even more people up in arms about “but muh freedum!” I hate smoking and had to endure my Dad’s secondhand smoke for a little over 20 years. I always feel as though my lungs are operating at a deficit. I’m convinced all the smoking and drinking he did drastically shortened his life, as he passed in his 60s and his non-smoking brothers in their 80s and 90s. I really admire New Zealand’s PM. Go NZ!
Banning cigarettes from anyone born after 2009? Sounds good doesn’t it? But there’s more to this legislation than meets the eye. More to it than thinking about reducing the amount of people smoking cigarettes in New Zealand. We have lofty goals here of being smoke free by 2025. Sure, it will save lives. But when considered in 2011 this goal didn’t include people smoking cannabis legally.
2923 is an election year and if Labour (The current government) want to get back in they will need the seats their coalition partner (The Green Party) brings. And the Green Party wants to legalise Cannabis. So, the ideals of a smoke free New Zealand 2025 have had to be modified. Hence this new legislation slipped into the last day Parliament was sitting in 2022 to be passed. Roll on 2023 when electioneering starts and Jacinda Arden will be telling us all how she’s saving the children from cigarette smoke. Shame she hasn’t met her campaign promise from past campaigns of ending child poverty?