World-first legislation for a smokefree generation . . .
Last week, New Zealand’s government announced it will introduce what it describes as “world-first” legislation in the new year to drastically curb smoking in the country. The proposed bill will make it illegal for anyone born after 2008 to buy cigarettes in the country, trim the number of stores permitted to sell tobacco products, and reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in cigarettes. The legal age for purchasing cigarettes will, in effect, rise every year in the future. These key components of the country’s Smokefree 2025 Action Plan are the result of years of consultation with experts, stakeholders, service providers, and public health professionals.
Fast-forwarding smoking reduction . . .
In 2018, 11.6 per cent of the population reported smoking daily, while that figure stood at 18 per cent 10 years prior. However, 29 per cent of Māori (Indigenous New Zealanders) and 18 per cent of Pasifika (those born in or with ancestry in the Pacific Islands) are daily smokers, with Māori and Pasifika people also over-represented in smoking-related diseases and deaths. When announcing the plan, the country’s Associate Minister of Health, Dr. Ayesha Verrall, was clear that reducing smoking among Māori is at the core of the legislation: “We’re on track for the New Zealand European population [to become smoke-free]. The issue is, though, if we don’t change what we’re doing, we won’t make it for Māori – and that’s [what] the plan is really focused on.”
Resisting the ban . . .
Such a transformational policy is bound to face resistance. Observers have suggested the policy will result in an estimated 20 per cent loss of revenue for convenience stores, without giving them sufficient time to adjust business models. Many have also raised the prospect of an expanded black market for tobacco products. Government research, undertaken in preparation for this policy, has identified a significant increase in tobacco being smuggled into the country in recent years, with organized criminal gangs involved in major smuggling operations. The trend is expected to expand once the bill is passed.
- The Guardian: New Zealand to ban smoking for next generation in bid to outlaw habit by 2025
- The New Zealand Herald: Smoking ban: Fears Smokefree 2025 legislation could stoke growing black market
- Radio New Zealand: Government plan to stub out smoking draws mixed reactions