Govt to ban young people buying tobacco in their lifetime

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

The Government has revealed its plan to bring the country's smoking rate down to less than five per cent, which included slashing availability and reducing the nicotine allowed in tobacco.

It’s the biggest decline ever recorded by the New Zealand health survey.

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall confirmed the Government would also set a cut-off date, making it an offence to sell or supply smoking tobacco products to people born after a certain date.

The change could see, for example, a child who is 10 now never being able to buy cigarettes in their lifetime.

"It's a bold plan and I'm very pleased to have my name associated with it," Dr Verrall said.

She said that going further with the tobacco excise tax "will not help people quit, it will only punish smokers who are struggling to kick the habit".

"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.

"People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco."

There would be a transitional period between 2023-2025.

"We are also reducing the appeal, addictiveness and availability of smoked tobacco of smoked tobacco products," Dr Verrall said.

"New laws will mean only smoked tobacco products containing low levels of nicotine can be sold, with a significant reduction in the number of shops who can sell them."

- Make smoking products harder to buy. That will include slashing the number of shops that can sell cigarettes and tobacco, "especially in low-income communities where retail density is higher".

- Make it an offence to sell or supply smoking tobacco products to people born after a certain date – meaning, for example, a child who is 10 now, may never be able to buy cigarettes in their lifetime.

- New penalties for anyone in the tobacco industry that doesn't follow the rules.

- Establish a Smokefree 2025 Taskforce, to make sure the goal is on track

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, former Māori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia and former MP Hone Harawira watched through zoom, while Dr Ashley Bloomfield was in attendance at the announcement.

Dr Verrall said smoking still killed between 4000-5000 New Zealanders a year.

She spoke about her experiences with the illnesses caused by smoking.

"It doesn't need to be this way."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about why vaping was not regulated to the same degree at the same time.

"We've already got the vaping framework," she said. "We've already seen vaping being used by people to as a tool to stop smoking."

ACT's Karen Chhour called it a "prohibition plain and simple and it will eventually create a black market".

"Prohibition has never worked – in any time or place – and it always has unintended consequences. The best way to wean people off tobacco is to allow the market to innovate and deliver products like vaping."

Green Party's Elizabeth Kerekere welcomed the plan, but said there was still more work to be done to avoid "the harms caused by criminalising substance use".