New Zealand plans to ban future generations from ever buying cigarettes - here's how

Smoking is being phased out in New Zealand. Credit: AP

New Zealand’s government plans to bring in a new law that would effectively ban anyone currently under the age of 14 from ever being allowed to buy cigarettes.

Under legislation announced on Thursday, the minimum age to buy cigarettes would keep rising year after year.

So anyone born after 2008 will not be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime.

In practice, officials hope smoking will fade away decades before then. Indeed, the plan sets a goal of having fewer than 5% of New Zealanders smoking by 2025.

Under the new plans the legal age to buy cigarettes would increase each year Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Other parts of the plan include allowing only the sale of tobacco products with very low nicotine levels and slashing the number of stores that can sell them. The changes would be brought in over time to help retailers adjust.

Because the current minimum age to buy cigarettes in New Zealand is 18, the lifetime smoking ban for youth would not have an impact for a few years.

Big tax increases have already been imposed on cigarettes in recent years and some question why they are not hiked even higher.

“We don’t think tax increases will have any further impact,” New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

“It’s really hard to quit and we feel if we did that, we’d be punishing those people who are addicted to cigarettes even more.”

And she said the tax measures tend to place a higher burden on lower-income people, who are more likely to smoke.

The new law would not impact vaping.

Verrall said that tobacco smoking is far more harmful and remains a leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, killing up to 5,000 people each year.

“We think vaping’s a really appropriate quit tool,” she said.

Dr Ayesha Verrall is driving plans to increase the legal age to buy cigarettes in New Zealand Credit: AP Photo/Nick Perry

The sale of vaping products is already restricted to those aged 18 and over in New Zealand and vaping is banned in schools.

Verrall said there was some evidence of a rise in youth vaping, a trend she is following “really closely.”

New Zealand’s approach to ban the next generation from tobacco smoking has not been tried elsewhere, she said.

But she said studies have shown youth sales decrease when minimum ages are raised. In the US, the federal minimum age to buy tobacco products was raised from 18 to 21 two years ago.