The New Zealand government announced on Thursday that by next year it would begin raising the minimum age at which a person can buy cigarettes year by year, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The New Zealand government plans to end smoking with a lifetime ban for those under the age of 14. 

New Zealand also implemented other rules that are part of the government’s commitment to achieving a smoke-free environment by 2025, known as “Smokefree 2025.”

As reported in April by The Guardian, New Zealand lawmakers introduced the package of proposals aimed at eliminating cigarette smoking almost entirely by that year, first by targeting those born after 2004.

Residents currently aged 24 and under would become New Zealand’s first completely smoke-free generation. Implemented year after year, it would clear the way for taking cigarettes out of circulation for good.

So, in theory, approximately 65 years after the law comes into effect, purchasers could still buy cigarettes, but only if they prove they are 80 years of age or older.

Currently, the minimum age allowed to buy cigarettes is 18. Therefore, after implementing this plan, young people would not be impacted by the ban since it would be a generation that would not have developed the addiction; at least, that is the goal. 

Other legislation included a ban on adults smoking in cars with children, which went into effect at the end of November, including plain packaging on cigarettes, a retail display ban, and progressive vape legislation that supports the use of vaping as a smoking cessation tool.

The plan also calls for an abrupt reduction in cigarette outlets but allows retailers to adjust to the changes. Moreover, they would only permit products with minimal nicotine levels to be marketed. 

Other parts of the plan include allowing only tobacco products with very low nicotine levels and drastically reducing the number of stores that can sell them. The changes would be incorporated gradually to help retailers adapt.

Dr. Ayesha Verrall, New Zealand’s deputy minister of health, is spearheading the plan to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal. She explained to the media outlet the government’s approach to take the strategy forward without implementing what has been done before: raising taxes on consumers.

“We don’t think tax increases will have any further impact,” Verrall said. “It’s really hard to quit and we feel if we did that, we’d be punishing those people who are addicted to cigarettes even more.”

Verrall also noted that vaping would continue to be allowed for those 18 and older, as smoking tobacco is far more harmful and one of the leading causes of death in the country. “We think vaping’s a really appropriate quit tool,” she said.

While acknowledging the workability of New Zealand’s proposed strategy for future generations to quit smoking has not been tested anywhere, she explained that studies indicate that raising the minimum age allowed to buy tobacco decreases sales among young people.

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