New Zealand bans smoking: Is new phasing-out plan right?
- On December 9, 2021, New Zealand’s health ministry announced plans for a smoking ban on “people aged 14 and under” that would “keep rising year after year” in the hopes of phasing out smoking to less than 5% by 2025.
- The percentage of adult smokers in New Zealand has decreased to 11.6% from 18% in 2006. Those aged 25 to 34 have the highest smoking rate at 16.7%, but Maori women have the highest overall rate of 32%.
- According to the CDC, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year worldwide. In America, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death, resulting in 480,000 deaths nationwide, of which 41,000 are from secondhand smoking.
- In 2019, the number of worldwide smokers totaled 1.1 billion.
- A study funded by the Medical Research Council in England found that there are certain DNA factors that determine the level of risk for developing diseases from long-term smoking.
New Zealand's plan to outlaw smoking for younger generations is both a responsible and a well-thought-out decision that will benefit the country and its citizenry. Smoking kills upwards of five thousand people a year in the country alone. It has likewise been proven that outlawing smoking can lower that death rate, especially in cases of heart attack and cancers related to long-term smoking.
Passing laws that keep ourselves and others safe is not a new concept. We've seen laws passed before for things like seatbelts, speed limits, and drug use, which have proven to be effective in lowering the number of related injuries and deaths. And like these restricted activities, smoking is not a victimless situation. Second-hand smoke causes numerous health problems in children and infants and is responsible for more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.
Even if smoking were outlawed everywhere except the home, smokers would still be exposing smoke to their own children, pets, and elderly who may reside in the home. This is certainly unethical. No personal liberty should be allowed to negatively affect others this way, especially when another person's health is compromised in a situation they cannot control. New Zealand is taking the steps necessary to ensure future generations won't receive the same impact of poor health due to the actions of others.
And even though the country is not outlawing smoking for older generations, it's been proven that smoking bans help smokers quit. De-normalizing a dangerous product helps deter others from following trends; making it more difficult to obtain might help discourage the younger generation from starting the habit in the first place. The pros out-way the potential cons and New Zealand is going in the right direction here.
New Zealand's 'smoke-free' generation tobacco phase-out plan will prove to be ineffective due to variables that are out of lawmakers' control. This new legislation will only encourage nicotine users to go to greater lengths to obtain these products, possibly making their current social moment (considering COVID) even more dangerous than they originally were.
Although enforcing restrictions and regulations on tobacco sales can help diminish usage, completely removing the ability to use tobacco products will not work; it will only encourage the expansion of the black market selling tobacco. A 2009 study determined that eliminating the underground tobacco market would eventually save over 160,000 lives annually. These products are often made up of cheaper materials in an attempt to cut corners, putting users at even more risk than they would be smoking cigarettes.
Businesses that center their sales around tobacco products will struggle immediately once this law is implemented. While 'Big Tobacco' is rightfully propped up as a villain for releasing its harmful effects onto the public, there are small, local businesses that now make a living from profiting off of these tobacco products.
New Zealand's plan also lowers nicotine in cigarettes, encouraging users to simply buy more cigarettes, thus exposing them to more carcinogens. Users also may move on to chewing tobacco, which has been linked to causing oral cancer, a disease killing nearly 10,000 Americans annually. While New Zealand's political officials may not have attended to commit any wrongdoing, they would be best off revising their plan.