New Zealand lawmakers have vowed to break the ‘disgusting and bizarre’ grip of cigarette makers, introducing world’s first legislation that will prevent the next generation from being able to buy cigarettes legally.
On Tuesday, the government introduced its new laws in an attempt to create a smoke-free generation, introducing an ever-increasing purchase age so that teenagers can never legally buy cigarettes. The new measures, which have been debated in parliament, are seen as a world first – and have drawn a mix of praise for the innovation and concern over their untested nature. In addition to changing the smoking age, they would drastically reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes and require them to be sold only in specialty tobacco stores, rather than convenience stores and supermarkets.
“For decades, we have allowed tobacco companies to retain market share by making their deadly product increasingly addictive. It’s disgusting and it’s weird. We have more regulations in this country about the safety of selling a sandwich than a cigarette,” Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said as she presented the law for the first reading.
“Our priority in bringing forward this bill is to protect what is precious: our people, our whānau [families]our communities.
The bill is in its first reading and has had near-universal all-party support to move to select committee – the next stage of the legislative process, where MPs hear input from experts and the public. The law is expected to come into effect in 2023. The rules only target tobacco products and vaping will remain legal.
National Opposition MP Matt Doocey said the party would support the bill at this stage but were concerned about its experimental nature.
“Most of the measures being considered have not yet been widely implemented internationally, and in some cases New Zealand would be the first in the world to implement them,” Doocey said. ‘I have no problem with New Zealand being first in the world,’ he said, but the untested nature of the policy meant there was ‘significant uncertainty in the results’. .
The Green Party also supported passing the bill through select committee, but raised concerns about the criminal ban driving the industry underground. “The Greens have serious concerns about the possibility of a new type of criminal ban,” said MP Chlöe Swarbrick. She also shared her concerns about denicotinization: “It’s untested, as I understand it, anywhere and therefore it’s going to need some serious, heavy-duty kicking.”
The Libertarian Law party was the only party to oppose the bill at first reading.