Where is smoking outlawed? New Zealand drops proposed ban

New Zealand's now cancelled legislation is thought to have been the basis for the proposed law in England (Jonathan Brady/PA Archive)
New Zealand's now cancelled legislation is thought to have been the basis for the proposed law in England (Jonathan Brady/PA Archive)

New Zealand’s new government will ditch a new law to ban smoking for future generations to help pay for tax cuts despite warnings from health experts.

The country passed legislation in 2022 that introduced a steadily rising smoking age to stop those born after January 2009 from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes. The law was aimed at preventing thousands of smoking-related deaths and saving the health system billions of dollars.

The legislation is believed to have been the basis for the plan in the UK to phase out smoking for future generations.

The proposed New Zealand law included dramatically reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products, allowing their sale only through special tobacco stores. It included cutting the number of stores legally allowed to sell cigarettes from 6,000 to just 600 nationwide.

The legislation was due to come to effect from July 2024.

But as part of its coalition agreement with populist New Zealand First, the government has ditched the plans.

Finance minister Nicola Willis said the measures will be axed with the revenue from cigarette sales going towards the coalition’s tax cuts.

The prime minister, Christopher Luxon, said the reversal would prevent a hidden tobacco market cropping up and stop shops from being targeted for crime.

But is there anywhere in the world that has banned smoking completely?

Where is smoking banned?

There is no complete ban on smoking on any country in the world and New Zealand was set to be the first to make it illegal to buy tobacco.

But there are strict smoking laws throughout the world.

Thailand banned smoking on its most popular tourist beaches in 2017.

Smoking in all public places in Bhutan became illegal in February 2005, making it the first nation in the world to outlaw this.

A total of 17 European Union countries have well-enforced comprehensive smoke-free legislation in place, according to the EU.

Among these, Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Malta, Spain and Hungary have the strictest smoke-free provisions, with a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places, on public transport and in workplaces, with only limited exceptions allowed.

What are the laws in the UK?

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has pledged to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year to reduce the amount of people smoking. The changes would need a vote in Parliament, just like the free votes for the ban on smoking in public places and raising the smoking age to 18.

In Mr Sunak’s words, the proposed legislation would mean that a “14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free”.

The prime minister said it would not be fair to stop someone from smoking who already did but he hoped that raising the legal age would prevent teenagers from picking the habit up in the first place.

The current legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products across the UK is 18, the same as for alcohol. This is also the age at which teenagers become legal adults, enabling them to vote and exercise various other rights.

The legal age to buy cigarettes was raised from 16 in 2007 by the last Labour government, the first change to the age since 1908.

In July 2007, it also became illegal throughout the UK to smoke in any pub, restaurant, nightclub and most workplaces and work vehicles.