A Ban Too Far
Photo/Jeff Harris

Just when you thought you had heard everything from the anti-smoking zealots, along comes a proposal that takes smoking bans to levels that are unimaginable. If lawmakers in New Zealand have their way, eventually people who live in that country will never be old enough to buy a cigar or cigarette. That’s right—never.

In December, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health announced the creation of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan. The goal is to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products out of the hands of the nation’s “next generation,” people age 14 and under, with a particular emphasis on the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. (Aotearoa is a Maori word that refers to New Zealand.) The goal is to create a “smoke free generation.”

We are all for keeping cigars and all tobacco products out of the hands of children—cigars are meant for adults—but this plan is engineered to keep most types of tobacco out of their hands forever. 

Currently, people who are 18 years old are able to purchase tobacco in New Zealand, but if this proposal becomes law, beginning in 2025 that minimum will increase by one year, every year, in perpetuity. So in 2025, the minimum would rise to 19. In 2026, it will go to 20; in 2027, it will be 21; in 2028, it will be 22; and on and on. What that means is, should this pass, anyone born after 2005 in New Zealand will never, ever grow old enough to buy a cigar or a cigarette.

To our knowledge, this type of ban would be unprecedented.

As with most tobacco legislation, this is aimed at cigarette smokers, but it would impact cigar sales as well. Strangely, it
excludes vaping—which is prevalent among youngsters—and smokeless tobacco products.

Before you dismiss this as the crazed notion of a nanny state, consider the way most of us looked at California’s anti-smoking laws back in the 1990s. When California banned most indoor smoking in 1995, New Yorkers puffed away happily in bars, never dreaming such legislation would come out East. Then smoking bans were passed in New York City and elsewhere. How hard is it to find a bar or restaurant in America that welcomes your cigar today?

It’s important that we pay attention to all smoking bans, and voice our objection, before a legal, adult product becomes
prohibited in a way we could never have imagined. If we don’t speak up, there’s no telling how far the enemies of smoke will go to try to take away our right to enjoy a fine cigar. 

And this note wouldn’t be complete without mention of our cover story on the Top 25 Cigars of the Year. We smoked our way through hundreds of cigars—reviewing them blind, without the identifying bands, as we always have—and in the end a cigar from the Padrón family rose to the top. We would like to congratulate the Padróns on this win—their record fourth time being named Cigar of the Year.