New Zealand will almost completely ban tobacco from next year. Legislation passed by your Parliament means that anyone born after 2008 will never be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products.
The number of people who can buy tobacco will be reduced each year. In 2050, for example, people in their forties will be too young to buy cigarettes.
Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, who introduced the bill, said it was a step “towards a smoke-free future“.
Thousands of people will live longer and healthier lives, and the healthcare system will gain NZ$5 billion (US$3.2 billion) by not having to treat tobacco-related illnesses.
New Zealand’s smoking rate is already at an all-time high: just 8% of adults smoke daily, according to government statistics released in November, down from 9.4% last year.
The Smoke-Free Environments Act is expected to reduce this figure to less than 5% by 2025, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the practice altogether.
The bill also aims to limit the number of retailers that can sell smoking tobacco products nationwide to 600, from the current 6,000, and to reduce nicotine levels in products to make them less addictive.
This means that nicotine will be reduced to non-addictive levels and communities will be freed from the proliferation and consolidation of retailers that are dedicated to selling tobacco products in certain areas.
He added that the legislation could reduce life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori citizens. The overall smoking rate among Maori citizens is 19.9%, down from 22.3% last year.
The new legislation does not ban vaping products, which have become much more popular with the younger generation than cigarettes.
Critics of the bill have warned that the policy could fuel a black market in tobacco products and wipe out small businesses.