New Zealand wants to end smoking habit

Anti-smoking legislation advances in the country

Published in 09/12/2021 - 10:02 By Carla Quirino - Repórter da RTP - Wellington

New Zealand is moving forward with smokefree legislation to try to become a smoke-free country by 2025. Prices will rise, and the legal age for smoking will rise over the next four years. "Smokefree 2025" is a New Zealand Labor government policy to make the next generation free from addiction. The goal is that the new measures encourage people to quit smoking and remove younger people from the habit.

Over the next four years, smoking is expected to become unacceptable and unaffordable in New Zealand.

Future legislation implies a reduction in the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products, extinction of sales outlets, price increases and a definition of the minimum age to buy cigarettes, which will increase every year.

"This is a historic day for the health of our people," said New Zealand health minister Ayesha Verrall, quoted in The Guardian .

New Zealand health authorities claim that smokers typically acquire the habit during their youth. About four in five New Zealanders start smoking at age 18 and 96% at age 25. By preventing a generation from starting to smoke, the government aims to prevent about 5,000 deaths in a year.

"We want to ensure that young people never start smoking, so we will make it a crime to sell or supply tobacco products to new groups of young people. When the law goes into effect, 14-year-olds will never be able to legally buy tobacco," Verrall argued.

Daily smoking rates have dropped from 18% in 2008 to 11.6% in 2018. In turn, the native populations of the Maori and Pacifika are bucking the trend. The percentage reaches 29%.

"If nothing changes, it will take decades for Maori smoking rates to drop below 5%," Verrall said.

For the minister, it is possible to eradicate smoking in the next four years, but it will have to be more radical to have an impact: "I believe we are on the right path for the European population of New Zealand. The question, however, is: if if we don't change habits firmly, we'll never make the Maori change them either - and that's what the plan is really focused on."

Black market

If tobacco-free policies have been applauded by public health experts, new risks related to the product's black market could arise.

Sunny Kaushal, president of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, which represents about 5,000 corner stores -- often called dairy in New Zealand -- and gas stations, says everyone wants a smoke-free country. "But this will have a huge impact on small businesses. It shouldn't be done as it's destroying dairy stores, lives and families in the process. It's not the way to go," he added.

Kaushal warns that tobacco tax increases have already boosted a black market exploited by gangs, and that "the problem will only get worse."

The government recognized the risk of smuggling in the initial proposals: "Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and that organized criminal groups are involved in smuggling on a large scale."

Steam

The new legislation does not envisage restricting steam sales.

In the process of making the country completely smoke-free over the next four years, steaming has replaced traditional tobacco and is attracting many young people who would never have started smoking.

Verrall confirms that there is evidence of an increase in the numbers of young people, a trend he is following "very closely". "We think vaporization is a really good tool to stop," he countered.

Text translated using artificial intelligence.

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