When New Zealand’s Youth Grow Up, Cigarettes Will Be Illegal

The island nation plans to incrementally lift the age to buy combustible tobacco products until no one can legally smoke.

December 10, 2021

Cigarette Pack

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—New Zealand announced plans to not allow young people to buy cigarettes—ever. CNBC reports that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime, while the level of nicotine in cigarettes available to older people will be reduced, as well as the number of retailers able to sell cigarettes.

The legislation is expected to be enacted next year and is part of New Zealand’s initiative to make the country’s smoking rate 5% by 2025 and eventually have a smoke-free nation. The country’s current smoking rate is 13%, down from 18% almost a decade ago.

Under the measure, anyone under the age of 15 starting in 2023 will never be able to legally purchase cigarettes.

“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. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco,” Dr. Ayesha Verrall, associate health minister, said in a statement.

The New Zealand government admitted that the legislation could push more cigarette sales to the black market, which accounts for about 10% of tobacco sales in the island nation, according to a New York Times report.

In July, Jacek Olczak, CEO of Philip Morris International, said the company will stop selling cigarettes in the United Kingdom within the next 10 years. Olczak said the move was part of the company's goal to deliver a smoke-free future and end the use of traditional cigarettes. He also called on the U.K. government to outlaw cigarettes within a decade.

In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is working to ban menthol cigarettes. The agency also has discussed the possibility of reducing the level of nicotine in cigarettes, which would have a seismic impact on the tobacco industry and public health.