The government of New Zealand announced an aggressive plan to enact a nationwide smoking ban by 2022 on Thursday.
The new law would effectively be a lifetime smoking ban for individuals aged 14 and under.
The proposed legislation, which is expected to become law next year, is part of a broader effort to phase out the use of all tobacco products in the country by 2025.
If the bill becomes law, it will raise the minimum smoking age gradually until the entire population is affected.
The proposed legislation claims that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death among New Zealanders.
The government claims that smoking kills approximately 4,500 – 5,000 people a year which equates to approximately 15% of the population in 2019.
It is the opinion of government officials in New Zealand that, in spite of falling rates of tobacco consumption in the country, the government must step in to reduce the number of smokers in the country.
“While smoking rates are heading in the right direction, we need to do more, faster to reach our goal. If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5 percent, and this Government is not prepared to leave people behind," New Zealand's Minister of Food Safety Ayesha Verrall said.
The government also plans to reduce the number of smokers in the country by 2025 by mandating that the amount of nicotine in tobacco products be lowered over time and encouraging those addicted to nicotine to use a vaping device as an alternative to cigarettes.
Dr. Ayesha Verrall acknowledged in her statement about the legislation that raising taxes on tobacco products was not an effective means for preventing smoking among the country's youth, which is the main goal of the legislation.
“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 said in her statement.
There is a rising concern that the proposed actions of the government will lead to the creation the black market to meet the needs of tobacco consumers in the country, which could lead to the rise of gangs and criminal activity; however, New Zealand's health ministry remains convinced that the ban is the right thing to do, according to the New York Post.