New Zealand officials on Thursday announced a plan to ban smoking for all people born after 2008 in hopes of preventing an entire generation from ever picking up smoking, CNN reports.
The government’s proposed legislation would increase the current legal age to buy tobacco progressively from 18.
"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," said Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall. "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco."
The government also plans to restrict the amount of nicotine in products, impose new limits on tobacco ads, and reduce the number of stores that are allowed to sell cigarettes.
The legislation does not cover vaping.
NZ aims to lower smoking deaths:
The bill is part of a plan to reduce the share of the smoking population to less than 5%.
The government’s data shows that 13.4% of the country’s adult population are smokers, down from more than 18% a decade earlier.
The rate is especially high among the Maori population, where 32% of women and 25% of men smoke.
The Ministry of Health says that around 4,000 to 5,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses.
"Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancers," Verrall said. "Smoking related harm is particularly prevalent in our Māori, Pacific and low income communities."
New Zealand has long been a leader in policies aimed at deterring smoking.
The country launched a campaign to reduce smoking in 2011 and has since raised the price of cigarettes to the highest in the world. A pack of cigarettes now costs about $20 in US currency.
“We’ve already seen the full impact of excise tax increases,” Verrall said. “Going further will not help people quit. It will only further punish smokers who are struggling to kick the habit.”
But the government also acknowledged that the ban could fuel the black market, which already makes up an estimated 10% of the country’s cigarette sales.
A government document acknowledged that the ban “may contribute to this problem.”
But medical experts expect other countries to follow in New Zealand’s footsteps.
“Now that New Zealand has made that step, I expect many other countries are going to follow suit,” said Dr. Janet Hoek, a public health expert at the University Of Auckland. “This will be something that begins in New Zealand but that really has global implications.”