According to New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, between 4,000 and 5,000 people die every year in the country from smoking-related illnesses.
Even though there’s been a significant decrease in the country’s adult smoking population (down to 13.4 percent of the population from 18.2 percent in 2011), associate health minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall explained that “smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancers.”
She also emphasized that “smoking-related harm is particularly prevalent in our Māori, Pacific, and low-income communities.”
To protect the next generation of New Zealanders from tobacco addiction, the proposed new legislation will raise the legal age for buying tobacco, currently 18, progressively. “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,” Verrall said at a recent news conference. “People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”
The plan is to present the bill before Parliament in the coming year as part of a campaign to reduce the prevalence of smoking to less than five percent by 2025. The government also promises to exercise tougher restrictions on tobacco advertising, prioritize “practical support measures” to help smokers who wish to quit, and will only allow products with very low nicotine levels to be manufactured, imported, and sold.