New Zealand lawmakers want to phase out cigarettes by 2025

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New Zealand doesn’t want the next generation to start life under a cloud.

The nation’s lawmakers have introduced a package of proposals that aim to eliminate cigarette use by 2025, first, by targeting those born after 2004. If passed, residents currently aged 24 years or younger would become New Zealand’s first entirely smoke-free generation, the Guardian reports, clearing the way to snuffing out cigarettes for good.

The amount of addictive nicotine in tobacco products, including vape cartridges, would be severely mitigated under the new plan. Filters would also be prohibited, a move which might, ostensibly, make cigarettes more unpleasant to smoke. The law would also set mandatory minimums on the price of all tobacco products.

“We need a new approach,” said associate health minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall, in a statement on Thursday. “About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach that goal [of Smokefree 2025]. Business as usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

New Zealand public health organizations praised the proposed changes, pointing out that the proposal would be a positive for low-income and minority groups who have long been prime targets for tobacco advertisers.

The US sees the same income and race disparities in tobacco’s victims. A 2017 report found that tobacco advertising appears in predominantly black neighborhoods at a rate up to 10 times higher than others, according to Truth Initiative, whose anti-tobacco campaigns have taken aim at predatory advertising.

At the same time, black people are also more likely to die of tobacco-related causes compared to whites, despite the two groups using the products at comparable rates. Meanwhile, indigenous groups throughout the US report the highest use among any race or ethnic group.

However, some New Zealand legislators have criticized the plans, suggesting that a nicotine cap would “drive up the trade of black market tobacco with high nicotine, driving those addicted to cigarettes to turn to crime to feed their habit,” according to right-leaning party leader Karen Chhour, in a recent statement on their party website, which doesn’t provide data.

Activists among New Zealand’s Māori and Pasifika communities have nonetheless shown support for the legislation, according to the Guardian’s report.

“For too long the tobacco industry has been addicting our people, fleecing them of their money before we have to bury them in urupa [burial grounds] all over this land,” said Māori anti-smoking spokesperson Shane Kawenata Bradbrook. “I am looking forward to truly making this a sunset industry in this corner of the world.”

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