Government bans cigarette sales to future generations

By Will Trafford

Video: Newshub

Rangatahi who are aged 14 and under today, will never be able to legally buy cigarettes in Aotearoa, even when they turn 18, under new legislation announced by Associate Minister of health Dr Ayesha Verrall.

The Smokefree 2025 Action Plan (Auahi Kore Aotearoa Mahere Rautaki 2025) means the legal age for buying cigarettes will increase by one year, every year for those born after 2008, creating an effective ban for future generations.

"Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancers.. [it] is particularly prevalent in our Māori, Pacific and low-income communities," Verrall said

"This is a historic day for the health of our people."

Tobacco kills more than eight million people each year worldwide and at least 5000 people in Aotearoa. While smoking rates are decreasing, Pākehā are on track to be smoke-free (less than 5 percent of the population smoking) by 2025, but Verrall says Māori are almost three times more likely to smoke and more drastic action is needed.

‘Two and half years of the eight-year difference in life expectancy is due to smoking… If nothing changes it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5 per cent, and this government is not prepared to leave people behind.’

A Māori Advisory Taskforce chaired by Dame Tariana Turia is to be set up. Panel members will include Smokefree advocates Hone Harawira, Nan Wehipeihana, Donna Matahaere-Atariki and Selah Hart.

Verrall said the government wouldn't be using excise tax increases to further disensentivise smoking, but legislative changes would mean the level of nicotine in tobacco products would be stepped down over time.

"We've already seen the full impact of excise tax increases. The government recognises that going further will not help people quit, it will only punish smokers who are struggling to kick the habit," she said.