New Zealand passed a landmark anti-smoking law in Parliament on Tuesday, banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
The ban aims to prevent future generations from taking up smoking and is part of a wider government push to make the country “smoke-free” by 2025.
The new law will also reduce the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco from 6,000 to 600 by the end of 2023.
Violations of the new law are punishable by fines of up to NZ$150,000 (about $96,000).
“Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives and the health system will be $5 billion better off if we don’t have to treat the diseases caused by smoking, including many types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, amputations,” the minister said health associate Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
Smoking rates in New Zealand – already among the lowest in the world – are falling, having fallen from 9.4% to 8% in the past 12 months, according to Verrall.
Mr Verrall said the legislation would help reduce the life expectancy gap between Maori and non-Maori citizens, which can be as high as 25 per cent for women.
The legislation – the Smoke-Free Environments and Regulated Products (Smoke Tobacco) Amendment Act will also reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, with the aim of making them less addictive.
According to the Ministry of Health, New Zealand’s smoking rate is now the lowest since records began, with 56,000 smokers quitting last year.
However, vaping, which is not covered by the new legislation, remains popular among young New Zealanders. Official figures show that 8.3% of adults now vape daily, up from 6.2% last year.