New Zealand Bans Cigarettes for Future Generations

The government admits the ban could impact convenience retailers and lead to a black market.

December 15, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—New Zealand has passed legislation that bans future generations from purchasing combustible cigarettes, reports the New York Times. The level of nicotine in cigarettes available to older people also will be reduced, as well as the number of retailers able to sell these products. The law doesn’t cover vaping products.

As reported in NACS Daily in December 2021, New Zealand will raise the legal smoking age year by year until it applies to the entire population of the country. Under the law, anyone under the age of 15 starting in 2023 will never be able to legally purchase combustible cigarettes.

“This legislation accelerates progress towards a smoke-free future,” the country’s associate health minister, Ayesha Verrall, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives.”

The ban is part of the country’s goal to make New Zealand “smokefree” by 2025, reports Reuters. Over the past 10 years, half of adult smokers in the country have stopped smoking, bringing the smoking rate to 8%. About 56,000 people have quit combustible cigarettes over the past year.

The New Zealand government has admitted that the legislation could push more cigarette sales to the black market and impact the livelihood of convenience-store owners who sell cigarettes.

Retailers can receive fines up to NZ$150,000 ($95,910) for selling tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, and the ban is set in place for the totality of a person’s life. The legislation will reduce the number of retailers that are able to sell tobacco by 90%.

“This will drive up the trade of black-market tobacco with high nicotine, driving those addicted to cigarettes to turn to crime to feed their habit,” Brooke van Velden, deputy leader of the ACT Party, wrote in a statement.

The government also has said that the ban could increase smuggling by organized-crime groups. Experts said that imports to the country could be more carefully scrutinized as a solution.

New Zealand will have the second-most restrictive anti-smoking laws. Bhutan banned all cigarette sales in 2005, but the country reversed the decision in 2020 out of fear that traffickers would fuel outbreaks of the coronavirus.