Submissions to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill have closed, with Parliament’s Health Select Committee now tasked with reviewing public feedback.
The Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) says one aspect of the legislation that Crown Law will need to scrutinize closely is the Government’s proposed generational tobacco ban.
The bill limits the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products, aims to make tobacco products less appealing and addictive, and prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or after.
“AVCA agrees with the ‘smokefree generation’ in principle. However, we remain concerned that it could be an overreach. Let’s not forget that New Zealand’s current youth smoking rate is already well below Smokefree Aotearoa 2025’s overall goal of five percent or fewer regular smokers,” says Nancy Loucas co-founder of AVCA.
She says MPs on the select committee will need to test whether the generational tobacco ban could fuel an already existing black market, not to mention unintentionally make smoking more attractive to youth naturally keen to rebel.
AVCA is also concerned around the legalities of restricting one consumer product to a cohort of Kiwis once they’ve reach adulthood.
“All adults have the right to make informed choices. The Government needs to be very sure before implementation that this will hold up legally. I have concerns about banning a consumer product when one cohort of the population reaches adulthood while other adult products, such as alcohol, remain open to them,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says Very Low Nicotine Cigarettes (VLNC) could also prove to be a human rights violation – also based on all adults possessing the right to make informed choices. The vaping advocates believe there’s not enough longitudinal research to sufficiently prove that VLNC help people quit smoking. Further, the move could also see Kiwis heading to the black market or growing their own tobacco.
Internationally, New Zealand is positively viewed when it comes to adopting a successful Tobacco Harm Reduction approach to public health. The country’s smoking rate has halved in the past decade, largely due to smokers switching to considerably less harmful vaping.
“It’s good news that the Government is getting tough on tobacco, but it needs to make sure the likes of the generational ban and VLNC hold up legally as the world is watching. New Zealand is a leader in championing vaping as an effective smoking cessation tool. Now it has a chance to show best practice on eradicating deadly smoking,” she says.
AVCA says members of a Malaysian parliamentary select committee will visit New Zealand in September to learn more about the country’s Smokefree 2025 ambition and what policy steps it is taking to achieve it.
“Malaysia is also proposing a generational tobacco ban – in its case to anyone born in and after 2007. However, mistakenly the Malaysian health minister wants to also include vaping products. New Zealand knows that if you are to get an entire generation off smoking, you must provide a viable alternative. Hopefully Malaysian MPs will learn just that on their visit and amend accordingly,” she says.
AVCA says getting tough on tobacco is well overdue in New Zealand. Since vaping was regulated in 2020 vape flavours have been limited to just three in general retail, while Kiwi smokers can still access every tobacco brand in thousands of outlets.
“New Zealand will reach Smokefree 2025 because it’s getting tough on smoking, while providing adults with reasonable access to safer nicotine products. The Government has done relatively well backing vaping. It now just needs to make sure it hits tobacco where it hurts and where it can’t be challenged,” says Nancy Loucas.