New Zealand bans future generations from buying tobacco

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — In a law that’s the first of its kind in the world, New Zealand is beginning to implement a near-total ban on cigarettes and tobacco.

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New Zealand’s Parliament passed legislation Tuesday that bans anyone born after 2008 from ever being able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products, BBC reported.

Under the law, the minimum age to buy cigarettes will continue to rise, with fewer and fewer people eligible to purchase them, The Associated Press reported. New Zealand health officials said their goal is to make the country smoke-free by 2025.

New Zealand’s health minister, Dr. Ayesha Verrall, who introduced the bill, said, “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,” The Guardian reported.

The legislation also reduces the amount of nicotine allowed in smoked tobacco products and cuts the number of retailers legally allowed to sell tobacco by 90%, according to Reuters.

“New Zealand’s package in the endgame is an extraordinary and far-reaching set of measures that have always been talked about but never implemented,” Geoffrey Fong, a researcher on tobacco policy and leader of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, told NPR. “That’s very exciting and potentially very powerful for the world.”

The fine for selling tobacco to anyone underage is equivalent to $95,910, according to Reuters.

Members of New Zealand’s libertarian ACT party opposed the bill, which they said would force small corner stores to go out of business, the AP reported.

“We stand opposed to this bill because it’s a bad bill and it’s bad policy, it’s that straightforward and simple,” Brooke van Velden, ACT’s deputy leader, told the AP. “There won’t be better outcomes for New Zealanders.”

Verrall said the bill is a step towards the country’s “smoke-free future” and said, “communities will be free from the proliferation and clustering of retailers who target and sell tobacco products in certain areas,” BBC reported.

“Whenever you’re the first country, you don’t truly know what’s going to happen,” Fong told NPR. But if there is strong evaluation … then that’s going to open the doors for a lot of other countries to consider some or all of those policies here.”

The new legislation does not ban vaping products, BBC reported.