Smoking bans, cigarette trends & smoke-free countries

Smoking used to be cool, but the popularity of e-cigarettes and smoking bans accelerated by the healthcare industry post-COVID-19 have changed the world

Smoking has never looked less cool. Indoor smoking bans have left smokers out in the cold, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes is taking over and healthcare warnings are harder to ignore post-COVID-19. 

Many countries hope that going smoke-free could be a reality and are enacting bans. Others rely on the tax smoking brings in while others battle the black market. Here’s what is happening around the world…

One in three cigarette smokers are Chinese

There are 341mn smokers in China, the biggest of any country (although as the world’s most populous nation, this is no surprise). While over half the population of adult Chinese men smoke tobacco, generational attitudes may soon move the cigarette landscape. 5% of Chinese middle school students smoke with 3.6% using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and are 95% less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Through the tobacco tax, the Chinese National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) is responsible for an estimated 7-10% of the Chinese government's total annual revenue.

In 2018, Chinese state media highlighted the health and safety risks of e-cigarettes, banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and later banned the online sale of e-cigarettes. 

This year, the Chinese government has banned the sale of non-tobacco flavour vaping products.

New Zealand smoking ban for those born after 2008

New Zealand will raise the legal smoking age each year, in a bid to eradicate smoking. 

“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,” said Ayesha Verrall, Associate Health Minister. “People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”

Smoking in the UK 

The government hopes to create a smoke-free England by 2030. A recent review has suggested that the legal age for people to buy tobacco and cigarettes in England should be raised year by year. Similar to the New Zealand plan, the aim is that smoking will be phased out. 

However, research shows that since the 1970s, smoking has become less and less popular and the new age limit may not be necessary.

Bhutan’s smoking ban

A previous winner of ‘The Happiest Country in the World’, as well as the only carbon negative country on the planet, the tiny, landlocked nation banned the sale of tobacco in 2004. 

As Bhutan’s two big neighbours, China and India, are home to large cigarette manufacturers, Bhutan added anti-tobacco legislation to prevent the smuggling of tobacco into Bhutan in 2010, although it is now considering a revision.

Cigarette smuggling in South Africa and Zimbabwe

Across South Africa, spring is marked by the purple bloom of Jacaranda trees. Streets are covered in this foliage confetti from the beginning of October. In the north-east city of Pretoria, the one thing you won’t see this year are cigarette stubs among the petals, as Pretoria banned the sale of tobacco in March. 

The government used the 2002 Disaster Management Act to ban cigarettes for health reasons following the outbreak of COVID-19. Yet in a surprise to no one, cigarette smuggling has since boomed and border patrols mark the line between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, president of the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association argued that the ban would encourage the sale of cigarettes on the black market, which would cause more public health problems.


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