Chris O'Connor

A Smoke Free Australia?

Letter From Australia by Chris O’Connor

Australia has a plan to almost wipe out smoking by 2025 – with health experts demanding a radical New Zealand-style ban to make it happen.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is outlawing the next generation of Kiwis from ever being allowed to buy cigarettes in her bid for a smoke-free NZ.

When the new law comes in next year, anyone under the age of 14 will be banned from buying cigarettes in their lifetime. When those young people turn the legal age of 18 in 2025, they will be the first generation unable to buy smokes – in a move designed to eventually phase out smoking.

The move has been hailed by health chiefs, but has sparked fury online with some smokers and tobacconists branding the move ‘tyrannical’ and ‘ludicrous’.

One of the most crucial aspects to the plan is the reduction of nicotine content in cigarettes, which researchers say has shown does reduce smoking, not increase it. Other measures include restricting the number of stores where cigarettes can be bought – with just 500 shop licences to be made available, similar to a bottle shop licence to sell alcohol.

And there will also be even tighter restrictions on where smokers can puff away to make it even harder to indulge the habit.  The Kiwi assault on smokers has already had an incredible impact on the population.

Despite initially having had a higher percentage of smokers in NZ than Australia in 2012, the Kiwis overtook their neighbours in mid-2018, and has since seen numbers plummet to just 10.9 per cent of the population now still smoking.

Meanwhile Australia’s numbers started to drop quickly between 2010 and 2013 from around 19 per cent to 16 per cent when plain packaging and graphic warnings were brought in.

But in the years since, the number has largely flatlined, despite soaring prices.

Between 2011 and 2020, New Zealand raised the cost of a packet of cigarettes by 10 per cent a year, sending the price up to NZ$33 for 20 Marlboro.

Australia followed suit and hiked it up by 12.5 per cent a year for nine years, making a packet of 25 Marlboro Golds now cost approaching AU$50 (£27 GBP at time of writing)