WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Officials in New Zealand want to ban the sales of all cigarettes in the country and will implement new policies that include raising the age limit every year.
The legislation, which is expected to become law in 2022, would allow current smokers to keep buying cigarettes, The New York Times reported. However, the law would gradually raise the smoking age, year by year, until it covers the entire population.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,” Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said at a news conference Thursday. “People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”
Beginning in 2023, anyone under age 15 would be barred for life from buying cigarettes, according to the Times. This would mean that people who turn 14 in 2023 will always be a year younger than the legal limit, The Washington Post reported.
The proposal did not dictate how the sales ban would be enforced.
“This is all 100% theory and 0% substance,” Sunny Kaushal, chairman of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, a lobby group for convenience stores, told New Zealand’s Stuff news site. “There’s going to be a crime wave. Gangs and criminals will fill the gap.”
New Zealand has steadily raised the price of cigarettes since 2011, making them among the most expensive in the world, according to the Times. A pack costs 30 New Zealand dollars, or $20 in U.S. currency, the newspaper reported.
The number of shops authorized to sell cigarettes will be drastically reduced to under 500 from about 8,000 now, according to the BBC.
The new policies do not directly address vaping, the Post reported. Currently, the electronic gadgets, as well as many flavor packs, are sold only in specialized stores and only to those aged 18 and over. A November report from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ found nearly 20% of students vape daily, CNN reported.
Janet Hoek, a public health expert at the University of Auckland, told the Times that the ban for future generations would help maintain the country’s gains.
“Once we get to the Smokefree 2025 goal and we’ve reduced smoking prevalence, we want to make sure that’s what the future looks like as well,” Hoek told the newspaper.
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