New Zealand plans to gradually raise legal smoking age in effort to ban cigarettes

New Zealand's government is planning to gradually increase the legal smoking age as part of a push to phase out smoking, according to The Associated Press

A law announced Thursday would reportedly ensure that the minimum age to buy cigarettes would keep going up, year after year. 

People who are currently ages 14 or younger would never be legally able to purchase cigarettes in their lifetimes under the legislation, which is set to pass next year, the AP noted. 

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The news service added that in 65 years, a person would have to prove that they were 80 years old or older to buy cigarettes. 

Officials are reportedly hoping that cigarette smoking will fade out long before then, however. According to Reuters, 11.6 percent of the nation's population above the age of 15 now smokes. 

"We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth," New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said, reports Reuters. 

The number of authorized cigarette sellers is also set to decrease starting in 2024 under the law. Nicotine levels would be reduced one year later. 

The AP noted that tax rates on cigarettes have gone up exponentially in New Zealand in recent years and some want to know why they are not even higher. 

“We don’t think tax increases will have any further impact,” Verrall said, according to the news service. “It’s really hard to quit and we feel if we did that, we’d be punishing those people who are addicted to cigarettes even more.”