Smoking in times of coronavirus Photograph:( AFP )
New Zealand is looking to mount a challenge and has come up with a proposal to make the country smoke-free by 2025
Smoking is often called the hardest vice to quit. It takes months of rehab and a lot of determination, which is why it is ideal to stay away from it.
It causes cancer and is among the leading cause of deaths in the world. However, New Zealand is looking to tackle this menace by going smoke-free.
The country is trying to make an entire generation stay away from nicotine. The cigarette makers make people believe that a puff is an answer to all sad, tiring and even celebratory days. It's an industry that thrives on addiction and has no qualms about it.
Around the world, nicotine cartels are mighty. Government officials dare not challenge them, especially with the cigarette stain on their shirts.
However, New Zealand is looking to mount a challenge and has come up with a proposal to make the country smoke-free by 2025.
The first step is to increase the minimum age for smoking and then to ban sales to anyone born after 2004. This will make sure that an entire generation will no longer have access to cigarettes.
Other measures include putting lesser nicotine in cigarettes, setting a minimum price and slashing the number of stores.
This has come as reports revealed nearly 4,500 New Zealanders die from tobacco use every year. However, this isn't about helping people quit but is about forcing them to quit. So, public opinion is split.
Public health organisations say tobacco affects low-income communities harder. The number of tobacco retailers is four times higher in such neighbourhoods and the same for the indigenous communities. Data reveals 30 per cent of Maori women smoke every day. Cancer is the leading cause of death in their community.
For these groups, there is an incentive to ban smoking. It has gotten them hooked and emptied their pockets.
However, with this proposal, small shops will be the worst hit as cigarettes are their biggest movers. So, a smoke-free New Zealand would be a poorer New Zealand for them.
Also, it might bring a rise in the black market and with the illegal nicotine trade comes street muscle and gangs which is very much different from the usual spirit of New Zealand.
It is not just New Zealand, many other countries have grappled with the question of how to help people stay away from smoking and it has also, in some cases, led to some strange policies.
In Slovakia, smoking is banned in workplaces where non-smokers also work. In Australia, you can't smoke in most places, including public transport and near underage events.
Only a couple of countries have imposed near-total bans. Bhutan and Turkmenistan are the most cited examples and both these countries have a thriving parallel market.
New Zealand recently held referendums on two key issues — approval of euthanasia and rejection of marijuana. Now, even though smoking is a bad habit, consent, in most cases, is of utmost importance