The New Zealand Parliament has passed a sweeping piece of legislation that will effectively bar the sale of tobacco products to future generations.
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill makes it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009. While those people are 13-years-old now and well under the country’s minimum age of 18-years-old to purchase tobacco products, it ensures they will never be legally allowed to purchase such products in the country as part of an initiative to make New Zealand “tobacco-free” by 2025, a target it defines as having less than 5 percent of the population using tobacco products. Currently, the government estimates that approximately 8 percent of the population smokes daily.
“There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it,” said Dr. Ayesha Verrall, associate minister of health, during the legislative process. “And I can tell you that we will end this in the future, as we pass this legislation.”
To ensure compliance with the law, retailers who violate the law once it goes into effect will face a monetary penalty of up to NZ$150,000 ($97,175).
Additionally, the legislation will slash the number of tobacco retailers in the country, going from approximately 6,000 now to just 600 by the end of 2023, doing so by restricting sales to tobacco specialty stores and removing tobacco products from grocery and convenience stores. It also will limit the amount of nicotine that smoked tobacco products can contain.
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be $5bn better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations,” said Verrall.
One thing that the legislation does not do is restrict the sale of electronic smoking devices, which have been seen as cessation aids despite increasing use by young people as well as adults.
The legislation, which passed by a 76-43 vote, was met with opposition by the country’s ACT party.
“No one wants to see people smoke, but the reality is, some will,” said Brooke van Velden, ACT’s Deputy Leader. “And Labour’s nanny state prohibition is going to cause problems. Prohibition has never worked in any time or place and it always has unintended consequences. Eventually, we will end up with a black market for tobacco, with no standards or regulation, and people will be harmed.” She also noted that it will have an adverse effect on businesses that sell tobacco products.