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Drug Desolation Down Under

Posted 02/02/2023 by Akaash Raghunath

New Zealand, land of the kiwi, has banned smoked tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars. graphic by Akaash Raghunath 

New Zealand passes a new law banning the sale of tobacco to young people born in or after 2009.

The country of New Zealand lies southeast of Australia, in the South Pacific Ocean. The island is home to a number of unique plants, landscapes, and animals, such as the national bird of the country, the flightless kiwi. According to the World Population Review, New Zealand is the second-safest country on Earth due in large part to impressive government rules and regulations. The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Act is New Zealand’s latest attempt at eliminating the use of harmful or dangerous narcotics.

The bill was first read by the New Zealand Parliament on July 27, 2022. The royal assent (the confirmation of a bill) was passed five months later, on December 16, and the act officially went into effect on January 1, 2023. The Smokefree Environments Act does not outlaw the use of tobacco outright, as doing so would likely cause an uproar among the public. Instead, it prohibits the sale of illicit substances to people born on or after January 1, 2009. Essentially, it smothers the expansion of tobacco by preventing its spread to younger generations. It is worth mentioning that the legislation prohibits only the sale of smoked tobacco products, which means that other drugs and non-smokable products cannot be legally seized under the Smokefree Environments Act. However, New Zealand is no stranger to passing laws that outlaw a number of other illicit drugs (namely, the Narcotics Act, passed in 1961).

Passing legislation of this magnitude could, of course, have dramatic implications for the future of New Zealand, both politically and economically. With that in mind, the New Zealand Ministry of Health has opened a ten week consultation, running until March 15, 2023. The hope is to allow representation for any citizens who may be affected by the new law by allowing for alterations that could be considered for the final regulation. Currently, the punishment for violating the Smokefree Environments Act is a maximum fine of 150,000 New Zealand dollars (approximately 96,000 US dollars). For many people, incurring a fine of that magnitude would be economically devastating, and the government hopes that this will prevent any dramatic violations of the law.

According to GoVisaFree, New Zealand is the tenth best country to live in, in terms of quality of life. It is, by many people, considered to be one of the better places to live; beautiful landscapes and environments, economic stability, kiwis, and a number of other factors contribute to the country’s favorable quality of life. The Smokefree Environments Act is merely the latest in a long chain of drug related legislation. In 1961, New Zealand passed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which banned or limited a significant number of illicit material, such as cannabis and opium. Much later, the Misuse of Drugs Act was approved in 1975. Since the early 1900s, New Zealand has been working to completely eliminate harmful substances, and the Smokefree Environments Act may be a huge step forward in that direction.