The New Zealand government intends to ban smoking for young people, by raising the legal smoking age every year.
According to New Zealand media, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said that the government wanted to make sure young people never start smoking.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking, so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoke tobacco products to new cohorts of young people,”
According to BBC, this means anyone born after 2008 today will never be able to legally buy tobacco in New Zealand.
Goal is to make New Zealand smoke-free
The health ministry in New Zealand announced the decision on Thursday (Dec. 9), as part of a wider crackdown on smoking.
According to BBC, the government also significantly cut down on where cigarettes can be sold, in order to remove them from supermarkets and corner stores.
While about 8,000 shops are currently authorised to sell cigarettes today, this will be reduced to under 500 after the changes kick in.
According to The Guardian, the government also intends to reduce the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco to very low levels.
The same report said that the new measures are meant to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible, and the country's goal is to make New Zealand entirely smoke-free in the next four years.
Currently, about 13 per cent of New Zealand adults smoke, which is down from 18 per cent about a decade ago.
However, BBC reported that the rate is much higher among the indigenous Maori population, at about 31 per cent.
Stop young people from smoking in the first place
The move was welcomed by public health experts in New Zealand.
Natalie Walker, director of the Centre for Addiction Research at the University of Auckland, said that the government's move to cut down on smoking is a "game changer".
Public health professor Chris Bullen echoed the view, stating that the reduction of nicotine in cigarettes was "a world first", and that from a public health perspective, all his wishes have come true.
Associate health minister Ayesha Verrall, who made the announcement, said that it was a "historic day" for the health of New Zealanders and that the government wants to make sure that young people never start smoking in the first place.
Vape sales are not affected
According to The Guardian, vaping has been more popular among young New Zealanders in recent years, according to a survey of 19,000 high school students this year.
Nearly 20 per cent were vaping daily or several times a day, compared to three per cent of those aged 15 to 17 who smoked daily in 2018.
The new laws will not restrict vape sales.
While many believe vaping to be a healthier alternative to smoking, New Zealand health authorities warn that vaping is not harmless, as researchers have found cancer-causing agents in e-cigarette liquids as well, although the country did adopt vaping as a means to help smokers quit tobacco in 2017.
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