The historic passing of a new law in New Zealand today will see anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, prevented from purchasing tobacco products for the entirety of their lives.
With the aim of creating an entirely smoke-free generation, the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill is a world first in preventing the sale and distribution of tobacco products in such a way.
Along with preventing young New Zealanders from accessing tobacco, the law will also reduce the amount of nicotine in smoked tobacco products and decrease the number of retailers selling tobacco.
“It means nicotine will be reduced to non-addictive levels and communities will be free from the proliferation and clustering of retailers who target and sell tobacco products in certain areas,” associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
“The number of retailers around the country that can sell tobacco will be reduced to a tenth of the 6,000 there are now. This legislation mandates a maximum of 600 tobacco retailers by the end of next year.”
In a survey conducted of 25 retailers who chose to stop selling tobacco, they found 88 percent experienced either a neutral or positive financial impact, hinting at the potential economic implications of the new law. Additionally, it is thought the law could save the health system $5 billion by preventing the need for smoking-related illness treatments.
The new measures also aim to close the life expectancy gap for Māori women by 25 percent and by 10 percent for Māori men. Through additional access to health services and Māori and Pacific community targeted campaigns, government officials hope to increase equitable health in the communities most affected by the consequences of tobacco addiction.
Back in July, Verrall said of the new law: “For decades we have permitted tobacco companies to maintain their market share by making their deadly product more and more addictive. It is disgusting and it is bizarre. We have more regulations in this country on the safety of the sale of a sandwich than on a cigarette. We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth.”