New Zealand Just Passed a Groundbreaking Tobacco Law to Ban Smoking for Anyone Born After 2008

New Zealand just made history in the fight to keep young people safe from tobacco products.

In a global first, the island nation approved a new law to annually increase the legal smoking age. Under this policy, New Zealanders born after 2008 — so, youth ages 14 and under — will never be able to legally purchase cigarettes.

Per The Guardian, the landmark law is part of New Zealand’s decade-long campaign to be an entirely smoke-free country by 2025. It is accompanied by a handful of other measures designed to make smoking inaccessible, including restrictions on which shops can sell cigarettes and increased funding for nicotine addiction-related healthcare services.

“This legislation accelerates progress towards a smoke-free future,” Dr. Ayesha Verrall, the country’s associate health minister, said in a press statement. “Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives, and the [healthcare] system will be $5 billion better off from not needing to treat the illnesses caused by smoking, such as numerous types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, [and] amputations.”

It’s worth noting that New Zealand’s new tobacco laws won’t affect e-cigarette or vape sales. Recent data shows many Kiwis have swapped smoking cigarettes for vaping, echoing behavior trends among teens in the United States.

Vaping among U.S. teens peaked in 2019 at 5.4 million reported users. Meanwhile, a report published in October found that American teens have been vaping with more frequency since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, the U.S. government passed Tobacco 21, a federal law that raised the minimum age for sales of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. This law applies to sales of cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes. However, U.S. lawmakers have yet to advance any legislation akin to New Zealand’s forward-looking law.

The dangers of smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products are numerous and well-established. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarettes are linked to a wide range of serious health concerns, including increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer, lung disease, and stroke. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. People who quit smoking have much better health outlooks, especially if they quit at a younger age, but this is easier said than done since cigarettes are so addictive.

E-cigarettes and vapes aren’t exempt, either. Since e-cigarette cartridges usually contain nicotine, they are also addictive and can cause harm to teens’ developing brains. What’s more, teens who vape are more likely to smoke actual cigarettes in the future.

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