New Zealand Passes World-First Legislation to Ban Future Generations from Smoking Tobacco

New legislation now prohibits the sale of smoked tobacco products to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009.

man smoking a cigarette
Photo: Getty

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.

The bill's enactment follows the country's measures against tobacco usage in 2021, where $13.875 million were put towards additional stop-smoking services in the country's budget, and another $12.750 million were implemented towards smoke-free health promotion and community health mobilization.

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Members of the Health Coalition Aotearoa, a non-governmental health coalition of medical and health professional organizations in New Zealand, praised the new legislation with an open letter on Tuesday.

Smoke-free Expert Panel chair Sally Liggins called it a "huge win," writing: "I am heartened by the groundswell of support that has been shown across all sectors for these new measures which will stamp out tobacco-harm in Aotearoa."

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