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Smokefree amendment bill passes third reading in Parliament

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The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament.
Photo: 123RF

Legislation to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after the 1 January 2009 has passed its third reading.

It is another step towards the government’s goal for Aotearoa to be smokefree by 2025.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill makes three main changes:

  • reducing the amount of nicotine that is allowed in smoked tobacco products
  • decreasing the numbers of retailers that sell tobacco
  • making sure tobacco is not sold at all to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.

The bill is now set to become law – passing its final reading in Parliament with support from Labour, the Greens and Te Paati Māori.

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the legislation accelerated progress towards a smokefree future.

“The number of retailers around the country that can sell tobacco will be reduced to a tenth of the 6000 there are now. This legislation mandates a maximum of 600 tobacco retailers by the end of next year,” she said in a statement.

New Zealand’s smoking rate is already low with just 8 percent of adults smoking daily, down from 9.4 percent a year and a half ago and half the rate compared to 10 years ago.

Verrall said the measures were important for equitable health outcomes for Māori and would close the life expectancy gap for Māori women by 25 percent and by 10 percent for Māori men.

Anti-smoking groups react

Otago University Professor and ASPIRE2025 co-director Janet Hoek told The Science Media Centre that all three measures would help reduce smoking across all population groups.

“Reducing the number of outlets selling tobacco will improve community wellbeing, and enhance the safety of retailers,” she said.

Removing tobacco from small dairies would help remove an important risk to staff, she said.

Aotearoa’s approach was world-leading and likely to produce profound health benefits, she said.

Action for Smokefree 2025 chair Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole said the bill had several good aspects.

However, the bill may have the unintended effect of penalising existing smokers by cutting the number of cigarette retail outlets to 600, he said.

“The mandatory denicotinisation policy, third main policy, will not come into effect for at least two years and thus will not help achieve the 2025 goal. At best, it may encourage the tobacco industry to promote less harmful products such as vaping. But it might also encourage illicit cigarette trade,” he said.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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