By Julia Luise Tiemens 

“Smoking is the leading cause of statistics.”

As already Fletcher Knebel, an American author engaged in political fiction, noticed, smoking has been putting humanity at risk for years. About 480,000 deaths worldwide are yearly caused by the consumption of cigarettes. On top of this many children are exposed to the smoking of their parents, cancer treatments become a bigger and bigger income source for the health industry every year and this is being played down majorly. Despite the harmful side effects, many young children and teenagers are still victims of the belief that smoking is “cool” and a means to get popular attention. New Zealand’s government decided to generate active change in this field now.

New Zealand has always been a country with relatively low smoking rates. In 2021 around 9,4 percent of the population reached for the cigarette, making it one of the lowest adult rates among the countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Still, the distribution of smokers is unbalanced. The numbers are particularly higher among the Maori and pacific island population, where it almost reaches 20%. In 2003 an amended Smoke-Free Environments act was passed, which forbids smoking in all indoor public and hospitality spaces. However, among the kiwi society smoking is still causing one in four cancers which makes it a leading death cause in the country. To scare people off, high taxes are already in place. These add up to the multiple health warnings on the standardized packages, which’s price has been previously put up to 23€ per box. Furthermore, the country’s expenses on health services and campaigns specifically for the native population have been increased majorly. Apart from that, Vaping and electronic cigarettes have gained a huge fan base.

The parliament in the capital Wellington has just passed a new law, regarding smoking, which will enter into force in 2023. According to this law, new generations will have a ban on smoking. This will be realized through making the purchase of tobacco, for whoever is born after the 1 of January 2009, illegal. The minimum age for buying cigarettes will rise every year, contributing to a lifelong ban on young people. On top of that, the number of retailers allowed to sell tobacco will be drastically reduced until the end of 2023. This reduction includes a cut of 90% from 6000 to 600 units. Moreover, the amounts of nicotine allowed inside cigarettes will be lowered or even virtually removed from smoked tobacco. Through this the levels of the addictive substance will be mandated. In case of violations, fines can reach up to 150.000 New Zealand Dollars.

As the first country to take such grand measures, Jacinda Ardern proudly states her mission to be smoke-free until 2025. In her vision, smoke-free is defined as less than 5%. This will be achieved by protecting children from being exposed to tobacco marketing, reducing the supply and demand for tobacco and providing the best possible support for quitting. In this context, the health system will be saving millions through the avoidance of the treatment of people that have diseases caused by smoking. They will be about 5 billion dollars better off. On top of this, it should contribute to closing the life expectancy gap between the indigenous population and the normal kiwi population, which can currently rate as high as 25%. Genuinely, the kiwi government wants to ensure that more young people never even start smoking in the first place. By achieving the goal of a first smoke-free generation and therefore generating a huge generational change, New Zealand is planning to leave a legacy of better health for our youth.

This peculiar project makes the response certainly extremely interesting. After Ardern declared the new law as a huge moment in history for the nation, different voices began to arise. The health minister Ayesha Verrall backs her up, stating that there is no good reason to allow a product which kills people that make use of it. This change was welcomed by several health agencies. More specifically the Health coalition Aotearoa portrays it as a law representing the culmination of decades of fights by the health community. In contrast to that stands the feedback by the opposing ACT party. ACT holds 120 seats in the parliament. Brooke Van Velden, an important member of the party, opposes the bill by expressing her concerns. This regards the possible creation of a grand black market, since prohibition of anything usually leads to unwanted consequences. Further, she believes that many jobs will be lost and especially dairies will go out of business, due to not being able to sell. According to her this would be another factor, pushing normal people into a big black market.

In conclusion, one can say that a country finally recognized the importance of acting against the dangerous habit right now. By protecting our future generations in advance, many problems of today could be avoided in the future. The money invested in the tobacco industry, could be used in other places, like the health industry. However, it will certainly be interesting to observe the effects and changes caused among the population. Will it change our society for the better or force the creation of a black market? Will other countries follow the example?


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