"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," New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
"If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5%, and this government is not prepared to leave people behind."
Currently, more than one in ten of the country's population over the age of 15 smoke; among indigenous Maori adults, the number is closer to one in three. Four out of every five smokers started before the age of 18.
The new legislation, set to be introduced to parliament in June, aims to become law by the end of next year, and will be rolled out in stages: starting with a reduction in the number of businesses permitted to sell the tobacco products, followed by reduced nicotine requirements by 2025, before the outright ban two years later for anyone born in 2013 or later.
According to Reuters, the new laws would be among the strictest in the world, behind only Bhutan were selling cigarettes is illegal outright.
"Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking," New Zealand Medical Association chair Alistair Humphrey in a statement, per the outlet. "This action plan offers some hope of realising our 2025 Smokefree Aotearoa goal, and keeping our tamariki (Maori children) smokefree."
But voices within the tobacco and small business industries opposed the move, insisting it will only increase illegal sales.
"Prohibitions of any kind tend to play into the hands of criminal traders who peddle unregulated illicit products," Imperial Brands said in a statement.
Speaking to Stuff.co.nz, Dairy and Business Owners Group chairman Sunny Kaushal agreed.
"This is all 100 per cent theory and zero substance," he said. "There’s going to be a crime wave. Gangs and criminals will fill the gap with ciggie houses alongside tinnie (illegal drug) houses."