New Zealand passed a landmark anti-smoking bill in parliament on Tuesday, banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
The ban aims to prevent future generations from smoking and is part of a broader scope The government is pushing to make the country “smoking-free” by 2025.
The new law will also reduce the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco, from 6,000 to 600 by the end of 2023.
Violations of the new law are punishable by fines of up to NZ$150,000 (about $96,000).
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be about $5 billion better than not having to treat diseases caused by smoking, such as many types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and amputations,” Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verral said in a statement.
New Zealand’s smoking rates — already among the lowest in the world — are declining, dropping from 9.4% to 8% in the past 12 months, according to Ferrall.
Feral said the legislation would help close the life expectancy gap between Māori and non-Māori citizens, which can be as high as 25% for women.
The legislation – the Smoke-Free Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act – would also reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, with the aim of making them less addictive.
According to the Department of Health, New Zealand’s smoking rate is now the lowest since records began, with 56,000 smokers quitting in the last year.
However, vaping – which is not covered by the new legislation – remains popular among young New Zealanders. Official data shows that 8.3% of adults use e-cigarettes daily, up from 6.2% last year.
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