New Zealand wants to ban smoking for everyone in radical new move… but critics warn that any attempt to introduce similar rules in UK will be ‘fiercely resisted’
New Zealand will ban future generations from ever smoking under radical new laws that could be copied worldwide.
Wellington will effectively make it illegal for anyone born after 2008 to buy cigarettes or tobacco in their lifetime.
Under legislation announced yesterday, the minimum purchasing age –which currently stands at 18 – would keep rising year after year.
This means that 65 years after the law takes effect, only those aged over 80 will be able to purchase tobacco. However, officials hope to kill the habit decades earlier, with a goal of having fewer than five per cent of the population smoking by 2025.
New Zealand will ban future generations from ever smoking under radical new laws that could be copied worldwide (file image)
British experts described the policy as an ‘experiment’ but admitted it could be used as a ‘global template for the eradication of smoking’ if it succeeds.
Critics warn that any attempt to introduce similar ‘prohibition’ measures in the UK will be ‘fiercely resisted’.
Other parts of the plan, designed to cut the 5,000 annual deaths linked to tobacco in New Zealand, include only allowing the sale of tobacco products with very low nicotine levels and slashing the number of stores which can sell them.
Dr Ayesha Verrall, the country’s associate health minister, who is spearheading the law change, said her work at a hospital in Wellington involved telling smokers they had developed cancer. ‘You meet, every day, someone facing the misery caused by tobacco,’ she said. ‘It’s a really cruel product.’
Smoking rates have steadily fallen in New Zealand for years, with only about 11 per cent of adults now smoking and 9 per cent smoking every day.
The sale of vaping products, which are already restricted to people aged 18 and over in New Zealand, will not be affected by the law change. Sunny Kaushal, chairman of the country’s Dairy and Business Owners Group, said: ‘We all want a smoke-free New Zealand but this is going to hugely impact small businesses. It should not be done so it is destroying [convenience stores], lives and families in the process. It’s not the way.’
John Britton, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘These are bold plans that will struggle to succeed without widespread public support…However, the basic principle of targeting tobacco smoking rather than nicotine use, and endorsing vaping as an alternative source of nicotine for smokers who want or need to carry on using nicotine, makes this approach far more pragmatic and far more likely to succeed than the outrightly prohibitionist approaches… The world will watch this experiment very closely. If it succeeds, it will set a global template for the eradication of smoking.’
However, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ rights group Forest, said: ‘This is prohibition in all but name and prohibition very rarely works. If tobacco is made illegal to people born after 2008 it won’t stop younger generations smoking.
‘The sale of tobacco will simply be driven underground. The impact of this policy will hit non-smokers as well because the government will have to replace lost revenue by taxing something else.’
He added: ‘Any attempt to introduce a similar law in the UK would be fiercely resisted.’