New Zealand aiming to be "smoke free" by 2025

In a series of proposals known as the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, New Zealand is striving to eliminate tobacco sales for the entire country. Eventually, the country plans to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2004, but will begin by implementing measures like gradually increasing the legal smoking age, reducing the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco, and set a minimum price all tobacco products.

The country's Health Ministry explained that while smoking rates have declined over the past decade, "much work still needs to be done," particularly to reduce tobacco use among "Maori, Pacific peoples and those living in our most disadvantaged communities."

via Reuters

The plan was formally released this past Thursday, and locals have been asked to "provide feedback" until May 31 before it takes the next step towards becoming law.

According to Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, roughly 4,500 New Zealanders die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, and the government is committed to "accelerated progress" in the fight against smoking.

"We need a new approach… Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won't get us there," Verall argued. 

via Reuters

The initiative, while seemingly noble in its cause, doesn't lack for critics. Some argue that the lack of tobacco sales would bankrupt shop owners, while others worry about the creation of a black market for tobacco products. Even the government has acknowledged that tobacco smuggling has "increased substantially" in recent years.