Will New Zealand become the first smoke-free country?

 New Zealand announced Thursday a plan to gradually raise the legal age to buy tobacco, setting a "global precedent" through which the country seeks to ban the sale of tobacco entirely in the long term.

New Zealand law currently prohibits the sale of tobacco to those under the age of eighteen, and from 2027 this legal age will be raised by one year every year, according to Health Minister Aisha Viral.

"We want to ensure that people never start smoking... As they age, they and future generations will never be able to legally buy tobacco," the minister said.

The minister explained that the government will also adopt a law aimed at limiting the number of places that sell tobacco and only allowing products with a low concentration of nicotine, in order to reduce the risk of addiction.

Feral noted that these measures will allow New Zealand to maintain its role as a world leader in tobacco control. In 1990, New Zealand banned the tobacco sector from sponsoring any sporting activities, and in 2004 the country banned smoking in bars. "This is a historic day for the health of our residents," the minister said.

Tobacco, responsible for a quarter of all cancers, remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand.
The Minister pointed out that the health bill is very high among members of Maori communities and in the Pacific, where the rate of tobacco smoking is nearly twice that of the rest of the population, which is 13.5%.
The government plans to reduce this percentage to 5% by 2025, and believes that this target is achievable and would allow the health system to save costs of approximately NZ$5.5 billion ($3.74 billion).
The pressure group Action on Smoking and Health praised these steps, saying they put New Zealand "at the forefront of tobacco control in the world."
As for the British American Tobacco New Zealand company, which manufactures tobacco products, it considered that these measures “have not been tested and are not based on any basis and lack any scientific evidence of their effectiveness.” She pointed out that the decision will lead to an increase in the sale of tobacco on the black market.

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