New Zealand Plans to Create a Smoke-Free Generation

Never starting is easier than quitting later.

Jun 17, 2021
Teen saying no to smoking.

(pathdoc Productions / Shutterstock.com)

While most countries are promoting ways for their citizens to quit smoking, New Zealand is taking it one step further and trying to stop young people from ever starting in the first place. The country aims to create a smoke-free generation.

There are new legislative proposals that are aimed at outlawing smoking completely for the next generation according to The Guardian. The plans include increasing the smoking age and may include a ban on tobacco products for anyone born after 2004.

Other ideas that are being considered are a significant reduction of the legal level of nicotine, banning filters, raising the prices of tobacco products, and restricting where cigarettes and other tobacco products can be sold. All of this is advancing New Zealand’s goal of being smoke-free by 2025.

“We need a new approach,” Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said in a press release announcing the proposals. About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach that goal [of Smokefree 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

The smoke-free goal was set in 2011 in response to a Parliamentary inquiry by the Māori Affairs committee according to the government’s Smokefree Aotearora 2025 website. But sadly, New Zealand has not reached the smoking levels that were set in the plan. This included a decrease in daily smoking of 10 percent and halving the levels of the indigenous Māori and Pasifika rates from the 2011 levels.

Smoking is a serious issue in this island country. In fact, it accounts for one in four cancer deaths, according to the Guardian, and an estimated 500,000 New Zealander’s smoke. The effects are worse for the Māori. With 30 percent of daily smokers, Māori women have the country’s highest rate.

“We want to make sure that New Zealanders, particularly our underserved communities, don’t continue to suffer the disastrous effects of smoking tobacco,” Verrall said in the press release. 

New Zealand is already one of the most regulated countries in the world when it comes to smoking according to the nonprofit Foundation For a Smoke-Free World. In 2004, the country banned smoking in all public places (except for dedicated rooms in healthcare facilities) and tobacco advertising was banned on television, radio and in all print media. In 2012 that was extended to tobacco displays in stores. The current smoking age is 18.

While opponents say that these moves could put small stores out of business and could encourage the rise of smuggling and a black market in tobacco products, according to The Guardian, it was heralded by many organizations like the Cancer Society.

Any move that will discourage young people from taking up smoking is to be heralded. After all, it is easier not to start than to quit.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.