New Zealand considers smoking ban in public spaces

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The ban would apply to transport, restaurants, cafes and bars in New Zealand

New Zealand is considering a ban on smoking in public spaces for the next generation of young people.

The proposal, to be considered by a group of ministers, would make life prohibitively difficult for smokers.

The group also called for plain packaging of tobacco products, similar to that in the UK, Australia and some other countries.

The plan comes as New Zealand prepares to launch a new advertising campaign aimed at luring back smokers.

Announcing the plans, health minister David Clark said the group was committed to a “vision that will transform the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders over time”.

They will be discussing ways to raise awareness of the danger of smoking and draw attention to “how harmful smoking is”, Mr Clark said.

The Smoke-free Generation programme will focus on educating young people that “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke”.

Smoking was once a regular rite of passage among young people in New Zealand, but it is now a “very rare cultural practise” and “relatively unpopular”, he said.

“We have all seen the devastation that smoking has had on individuals, families and communities,” said Mr Clark.

“By 2020, 90% of New Zealanders aged 5-19 will have never smoked or used any tobacco products.”

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Mr Clark said that New Zealand is already seeing a drop in smoking rates among young people and in the overall population.

In 2016, the percentage of people aged 15-19 who smoked was 6.5%, down from 8.6% in 2012.

But at its peak the smoking rate was nearly 20% in the 1990s.

In a bid to convince smokers to switch to other forms of nicotine, the government has also committed to a ban on smoking in public places by 2023.

It is already illegal to smoke in cars carrying children or teenagers under the age of 18 in New Zealand.

Similar rules are already in place in the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and many other countries.

Consultation on the New Zealand proposals will last two months, with a report due in September.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already ruled out banning the public display of tobacco products at shops.

The US and Britain are among countries that have introduced price controls – which slash the profits of the manufacturers – to make smokers think twice about lighting up.

The Guardian newspaper, however, says the US tobacco industry has raised prices by tens of millions of dollars to respond to plain packaging proposals.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Despite her encouragement, Ms Ardern will not ban cigarette display from shops

In November last year, Cigarettes are Colourless and Ready to Smoke, an anti-smoking campaign focused on adult smokers, began its first national advertising campaign in 15 years.

The campaign’s target is adult smokers and was developed by anti-smoking lobby group ASH.

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