New Zealand to ban cigarette sales for future generations

Dec 9 (Reuters) – New Zealand plans to ban young people from buying cigarettes in their lifetime in one of the world’s toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish smoking were taking too long.

People 14 and younger in 2027 will never be able to buy cigarettes in the Pacific country of five million, part of proposals revealed Thursday that will also curb the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco and reduce nicotine levels in all products. .

“We want to make sure that young people never start smoking, so we will make it a crime to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of young people,” New Zealand Deputy Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.

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“If nothing changes, it will take decades for Maori smoking rates to drop below 5%, and this government is not prepared to leave the people behind.”

Currently, 11.6% of all New Zealanders over the age of 15 smoke, a proportion that rises to 29% among indigenous Maori adults, according to government figures.

The government will consult with a Maori health task force in the coming months before introducing legislation in parliament in June next year, with the goal of signing it into law by the end of 2022.

The restrictions would then be implemented in stages beginning in 2024, beginning with a sharp reduction in the number of licensed vendors, followed by the reduction of nicotine requirements in 2025 and the creation of the “smoke-free” generation beginning in 2027. .

The package of measures will make New Zealand’s retail tobacco industry one of the most restricted in the world, just behind Bhutan, where the sale of cigarettes is totally banned. New Zealand’s neighbor Australia was the first country in the world to require plain packaging of cigarettes in 2012.

The New Zealand government said that while existing measures, such as plain packaging and sales levies, had slowed tobacco use, stricter measures were needed to achieve its goal of less than 5% of the population smoking. daily by 2025.

The new rules would cut the country’s smoking rates in half in just 10 years from their entry into force, the government said.

Smoking kills about 5,000 people a year in New Zealand, making it one of the leading causes of preventable death in the country. Four out of every five smokers started before the age of 18, the country’s government said.

A woman lights a cigarette in this illustration image. REUTERS / Christian Hartmann

Vaping, which is often considered a safer alternative to smoking and a useful smoking cessation aid, is also strictly regulated and sales are only allowed to those over 18 years of age.


Health authorities welcomed the crackdown, while retailers and tobacco companies expressed concern about the impact on their businesses and warned of the emergence of a black market.

“We welcome the New Zealand government’s recognition that excessive excise tax increases disproportionately impact lower-income smokers,” said the tobacco group Imperial Brands (IMB.L), adding that it was concerned about the proposals to lower nicotine levels and eventually ban sales.

“Bans of any kind tend to play the game of criminal traders who sell unregulated illicit products,” he also said.

Dunhill maker British American Tobacco (BAT) (BATS.L) and Marlboro maker Philip Morris (PM.N), which had previously said they would halt sales in the country if required by law, did not respond. immediately upon requests for comments.

According to brokerage Citi, BAT is the market leader in New Zealand, with a 67% share by volume, while Imperial Brands, which sells JPS, Riverstone and Horizon cigarettes, accounts for 21%, generating around 1-2%. of your group’s earnings. before taxes.

The government did not detail how the new rules would be controlled or if they would apply to visitors to the country.

“Smoking cigarettes kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking,” said New Zealand Medical Association President Alistair Humphrey in a statement.

“This action plan offers some hope of achieving our 2025 smoke-free Aotearoa goal and keeping our tamariki (Maori children) smoke-free.”

However, Dairy and Business Owners Group, a lobbyist for local convenience stores, said that while it supported a smoke-free country, the government’s plan would destroy many businesses.

“This is all 100 percent theory and zero percent substance,” group president Sunny Kaushal told “There is going to be a crime spree. Gangs and criminals will fill the void with houses of ciggies next to houses of tinnie.”

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Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; edited by Jane Wardell, Kirsten Donovan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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