Lifelong New Zealand smoking ban young people ‘a milestone ‘

Creating a generation that no one smokes anymore, thats what New Zealand wants. To achieve that, young people who turn 14 next year will never be able to legally buy cigarettes again, the country announced today. The age limit for tobacco increases by one year from the year they turn 18.

This way, over time, fewer and fewer people can buy cigarettes and tobacco is eliminated step by step. For example, in 2040, only people older than 32 can buy cigarettes.

โ€œA milestone,โ€ says Marc Willemsen of the Trimbos Institute. โ€œThis is the first country to take such a measure. In Madagascar, such a plan has died in parliament,โ€ says Willemsen, who is also a special professor of tobacco control at Maastricht University. In New Zealand, too, Parliament has yet to consider the plan, but that seems to be a formality. The reigning Labour Party has a majority.

Willemsen hopes that other countries will be inspired by New Zealand. Above all, he calls the plan an important signal. In 2025, the government wants less than 5 percent of the population to smoke. The percentage of smokers has already gone down, to about 13 percent. โ€œWith this, New Zealand indicates that the final phase has arrived to achieve that smoke-free generation.โ€

Age from 18 to 21

Anton Kunst, professor of social epidemiology at the Amsterdam UMC, also understands that New Zealand is taking such a measure: โ€œIt will certainly be effective.โ€ The longer you can postpone that young people start smoking, the less it will start. โ€œMost young people start experimenting with smoking around the age of fourteen. Then it may take a few years for them to become addicted. Around the age of sixteenth, seventeenth, they smoke daily.โ€

Still, Kunst doesnt necessarily see anything to introduce the measure here too: โ€œBanning certain generations can be a disadvantage legally. That tends to discrimination.โ€ Increasing the age at which you can buy tobacco from 18 to 21 is more feasible as far as Art is concerned: โ€œThat has already happened in a number of US states.โ€

New Zealanders react to the smoking ban for young generations:

Willemsen does think that the same measure as introducing New Zealand can work here. โ€œBut it takes at least four years before you see an effect. By increasing the sales age to 21, you have a direct effect. Weve seen that in the US. Just like youve seen here that there was an effect when the age was increased from 16 to 18.โ€

Raising the price of tobacco is also a step that the Netherlands must take, says Willemsen: โ€œThere is relatively little excise duty being levied here.โ€ In New Zealand, the price of a pack of cigarettes is converted around 22 euro, here more than 7 euros. By increasing the price, more people quit smoking and it becomes even harder to get started. The effect of a price increase on young people is greater, because they have less to spend than the elderly.

Health experts in New Zealand responded delighted to the plan. Still, there were also critical sounds to be heard. The sale ban plays into the map of illegal trade, thats what it sounds like. Art: โ€œThat argument is also often mentioned by people who have an interest in selling tobacco. Possible side effects should not stop us from big steps.โ€

Willemsen is also not afraid of an increase in illegal cigarette trafficking: โ€œBecause the age limit goes up a step every year, it goes very gradually. Its not that tobacco is now completely banned.โ€ One side effect he fears more about is that young people seek refuge to e-cigarettes.

New Zealands research showed last month that smoking among young people has become less popular, but that vaping has actually increased. Thats what the government is trying to tackle. For example, only three flavors for e-cigarettes can be sold.

Stepping

โ€œFor people who already smoke, e-cigarettes can be an intermediate step to quit smoking,โ€ says Kunst. โ€œBut for young people, it can be just a stepping stone to start.โ€ The research also shows that many young people who vaping never touched a regular cigarette.

โ€œMore needs to be done to prevent the problem from moving,โ€ says Willemsen. โ€œIn that regard, there may be even a more favourable basis for the New Zealand measure here than there. We already have strict regulations regarding e-cigarettes, so fewer escape opportunities.โ€

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