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On Thursday, December 9, 2021, the New Zealand government announced a plan to gradually increase the age at which tobacco can be purchased. A “world first” that aims to ban the sale of tobacco in the long term.
Current regulations currently prohibit New Zealanders under the age of 18 from purchasing tobacco. This age limit will increase by one year each year with the Smokefree 2025 action plan, New Zealand Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said.
“We want to make sure people never start smoking … As they get older, [les jeunes nés avant 2008] and future generations will never be able to buy tobacco legally, ”he said in a video broadcast by New Zealand’s Stuff site. The minister specified that the government will adopt a law also aimed at restricting the number of places that can sell tobacco and only authorize products that contain a low level of nicotine, in order to reduce the risk of dependence.
Ayesha Verrall highlighted that these measures will allow New Zealand to maintain its role as a world leader in tobacco control. In 1990, the archipelago banned the tobacco industry from sponsoring the sports sector and in 2004 from smoking in bars.
Goal: never start smoking
In the United States, where smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year, the law prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 21. According to a recent study, this prohibition considerably reduces tobacco use, especially since the vast majority of smokers start before the age of 21. A target age for a law that would therefore allow never to start smoking.
Researchers at Yale University examined the impact of “tobacco 21” policies and found that they reduced the likelihood that an 18 to 20-year-old would become a heavy smoker. The long-term effect of this law remains to be seen …
Globally, smoking kills nearly 7 million people a year and more than 890,000 people are exposed to secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization announces that smoking could be responsible for 8 million deaths by 2030 if the current trend continues.
Tobacco: the leading cause of preventable death
Alarming figures that explain the implementation of anti-smoking laws, as in New Zealand, where smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death. The minister also emphasized that the cost of healthcare was particularly high in Maori and Pacific communities, where the smoking rate is roughly double the 13.5% recorded among the rest of the population.
The government wants to reduce this percentage to 5% by 2025 and, according to him, this achievable goal would save the health system NZ $ 5.5 (about 3.3 billion euros) in expenses.
The lobby group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) welcomed the announcements. “This complementary set of measures will be envied by countries battling the death and misery caused by smoking tobacco,” said Robert Beaglehole, president of ASH. “We will be at the forefront of tobacco control in the world,” he said.
However, this law could lead to a curious situation where, 65 years after its entry into force, New Zealanders could still buy cigarettes if they prove they are over 80 years old! Although it is highly likely that by then and after law enforcement, stores across the country will no longer sell tobacco due to low demand.
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