THE New Zealand government has suggested several new restrictions on cigarettes and tobacco products that could lead to a smoking ban for young people and future generations.
The country is aiming to be completely smoke-free by 2025. Several ideas for how to reach that target are under consideration, including a gradual increase to the legal smoking age that could effectively ban those born after 2004 from buying cigarettes, setting a minimum price for tobacco, and restricting where tobacco is sold.
Many health organisations in the country came out in support of the proposed restrictions. Cancer Society chief executive Lucy Elwood said: “Tobacco is the most harmful consumer product in history and needs to be phased out.”
Smoking rates are particularly high among Māoris (the indigenous people of New Zealand). Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, who campaigns for a tobacco-free Māori community, said he hopes the plans “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country”.
However, not everyone agrees that the plans are a good thing. There are concerns that small shops and convenience stores could lose money or even go out of business. The New Zealand government also admitted that clamping down on tobacco products risks an increase in criminals smuggling them into the country.
According to Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall, about 4,500 New Zealanders die each year because of smoking.
One in four cancer deaths in the country are due to smoking, while around 500,000 people, or one in ten, smoke daily.