New legislation was proposed that would allow those already smoking to continue purchasing cigarettes while prohibiting the next generation from doing so. If the legislation goes into effect next year, anyone under the age of 15 starting in 2023 would be barred from buying cigarettes for their entire life. The legal age will be raised each year, meaning that by 2040, New Zealanders would need to be 32 or older to purchase tobacco products.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking, so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,” said New Zealand’s health minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall. “People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”
Current government data estimates that 13.4 percent of New Zealand’s adult population smokes tobacco. In 2011-2012, that figure was 18.2 percent. The government is looking to reduce the amount of smokers in the country to less than 5 percent by 2025, a move that comes as part of long-running efforts to get more people to kick the habit. Since 2011, New Zealand has gradually increased the price of cigarettes. Currently, a regular pack will set someone back 30 New Zealand dollars, which is just over $20 USD.
“We’ve already seen the full impact of excise tax increases,” added Dr. Verrall. “Going further will not help people quit. It will only further punish smokers who are struggling to kick the habit.”
The new legislation, however, does not cover vaping.