The New Zealand government plans to ban young people from ever buying cigarettes in their lifetime in one of the world's toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish smoking were taking too long.
People aged 14 in 2027, when the law is scheduled to come into effect, will never be allowed to legally purchase cigarettes in the Pacific country of five million, while the level of nicotine in all cigaretttes on sale will be reduced.
"We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth," said New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall in a statement.
The government will consult with a Maori health task force in the coming months before introducing legislation into parliament in June next year, with the aim of making it law by the end of 2022.
That would make New Zealand's retail tobacco industry one of the most restricted in the world, just behind Bhutan where cigarette sales are banned outright. New Zealand's neighbour Australia was the first country in the world to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes in 2012.
While existing measures like plain packaging and levies on cigarette sales had slowed tobacco consumption, the New Zealand government said, the country was unlikely to achieve its goal of under 5% of the population smoking daily by 2025 without further steps.