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New Zealand Bans the Sale of Tobacco to Anyone Born After 2009

Associate Health Minister called the legislation ‘life-saving,’ ‘life-extending,’ and ‘life-changing’

New Zealand Bans the Sale of Tobacco to Anyone Born After 2009

Tobacco retailers will face serious fines for selling their products to New Zealand’s youngest generation.

The nation’s parliament passed the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill which prohibits the sale of any tobacco products to a person born on or after Jan. 1, 2009. 

Additionally, only 600 hundred stores across the country will be permitted to sell tobacco by the end of 2023 – a drastic reduction from the current 6,000. Retailers in violation of the new law could be fined NZ $150,000 – or USD $95,910. Anyone who delivers or arranges the delivery of tobacco products to those born in 2009 or later could also be fined. 

The bill also aims to make tobacco products less appealing and addictive with the ultimate objective of deterring a new generation from picking up the habit. Nicotine levels are capped at the “non-addictive level” of 0.8 mg per gram of tobacco. This is approximately 20 times less than the normal 15.8 mg/g nicotine level in cigarettes, per New Atlas.

The policy was first introduced in July by Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall. 

"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 said while speaking to parliament on Dec. 8. 

"There are 4500 people who die of tobacco in New Zealand each year and it is our leading preventable cause of death,” Verrall added. “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."

Verrall has also argued the bill will reduce preventable, tobacco-related health issues that cost the nation’s health system billions of dollars. 

“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,” she said, per Firstpost.

In 2021, New Zealand invested nearly $14 million in stop-smoking services and about $12.7 million in smoke-free health promotions. 

Some proponents of the anti-smoking regulations argue the policies will help with health disparities observed between different races in New Zealand.

Just over 22% of the Māori, an indigenous Polynesian people from New Zealand’s mainland, smoke, which is greater than the smoking rate among the general adult population.

Andrew Waa, a public health specialist at the University of Otago, Wellington, told that “Tobacco was introduced to the islands by Europeans in the late 1700s, and the lingering impacts of colonialism and racism mean Māori still have fewer of the social, institutional, and economic resources available to help citizens trying to quit smoking.”

Over the last decade, the smoking rate in New Zealand has declined by about half. Currently, 8% of the population smokes. 

The law goes into effect at the beginning of 2023.

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