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Asia Minute: New Zealand's parliament opens new front in war on smoking

New Zealand Smoking Ban
David Rowland
Vaping by a man in a street in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. New Zealand's government believes it has come up with a unique plan to end tobacco smoking, a lifetime ban for those aged 14 and under.

It's about to become a lot tougher to smoke cigarettes in New Zealand.

Currently, there are about 6,000 retailers in the country that sell tobacco. By the end of next year, that number will be slashed to no more than 600.

Additionally, the government is banning anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, to buy tobacco. Those are children who will soon turn 14 years old because health officials say they want to stamp out the smoking habit within their generation.

It's all part of a sweeping piece of legislation that passed its final reading in Parliament on Tuesday.

Another part of the measure will cut the amount of nicotine that’s allowed in tobacco, aiming to reduce the power of the drug’s addiction.

Health Department figures show the adult smoking rate in New Zealand is now 8%, which is down from 9.4% a year ago and half the level of ten years ago.

The United Health Foundation says that figure in the United States is about 14.5% —while Hawaiʻi’s adult smoking rate is just above 10%.

Back in New Zealand, critics say the law will lead to a black market business for bootleg cigarettes.

They also point out that the new legislation doesn’t deal with another smoking challenge for young consumers: vaping.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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