What The FAQ: How practical is New Zealand's 'lifetime' ban on cigarettes

New Zealand has plans to make the island nation a country with less than 5% active smoking adults by 2025. Right now, it is way short of that target
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

New Zealand's proposed cigarette ban will put it right up there with the list of countries with the strictest regulations in place for tobacco sales and smoking. Here's how the NZ government has chalked out the plan for its implementation

1. How does a 'lifetime' ban on cigarettes work?
New Zealand's Health Minister said on December 9 that the government proposes to ban cigarette sales permanently to anyone who is currently under the age of 14 years. This means all those who were born in and after 2008 will never be able to legally purchase a cigarette in their lives. It will also be illegal to sell cigarettes to this demographic.

2. Will NZ's cigarette ban come into effect immediately?
The NZ government plans to introduce it as a bill in the parliament by June next year, and is hoping to pass it as a law by the end of next year. Before that, however, a special task force for the Maori people will be consulted.

3. What steps will be followed to impose the ban?
The ban will be executed in phases from 2024, said the government. In 2024, the number of authorised sellers will be seeing a sharp drop, followed by a reduction in nicotine levels in the products. Then in 2027, the ban on sale of cigarettes to those born in or after 2008 will come into effect.

4. What prompted New Zealand to ban cigarettes?
New Zealand has plans to make the island nation a country with less than 5% active smoking adults by 2025. Right now, it is way short of that target. Not only is the current percentage of active smokers above the age of 15 at 11.6%, that number is disproportionately high among NZ's indigenous Maori people, where that number rises to 29%.

5. Why does the administration see a need to curb smoking in the country?
About 5,000 people die due to smoking every year in New Zealand, and a large number of these smokers start before the age of 18, said the NZ government. "Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking," said New Zealand Medical Association chair Alistair Humphrey in a statement, adding, "This action plan offers some hope of realising our 2025 Smokefree Aotearoa goal, and keeping our tamariki (Maori children) smokefree."

6. How has this smoking epidemic impacted the Maori population?
Tobacco was first introduced in New Zealand in the 1800s, and it was imbibed by the Maori population. In 2010, when NZ first proposed its plan to significantly reduce smoking by 2025, almost 45% of the Maori population were active smokers. This was disproportionately higher because it was double that of the national average. In 2010, Maori women happened to have the highest rates of lung cancers in the world. The population was also losing its elderly to smoking, and it was being rued as a loss of culture and tradition.

7. What other countries have strict restrictions in place for tobacco sales?
Bhutan is the only country in the world that has outright banned the sale of cigarettes or tobacco. Only 17 countries in the world mandate plain packaging for cigarettes, and New Zealand is one of them. Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. Among a host of other public places, Costa Rica also banned smoking in bars in 2012. Uruguay had already put such a law in place back in 2004.

8. What does the tobacco industry have to say about the ban?
It comes as no surprise that the industry isn't exactly excited about the announcement. They claim that the decision will impact thousands of businesses and livelihoods. They also warn that the bans may give rise to a black market, and cause an increase in crime rates as well, giving gangs and criminals a void to fill in the absence of authorised sellers.

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