In its report Up In Smoke: The Social Cost of Tobacco Excise, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is accusing the government of being more interested in generating revenue than reducing harm. The group said that increased taxes on cigarettes have led to about 10% of the smoking population, equating to 550,000, quitting cigarettes. The report, points out that despite a 60% rise in cigarette prices, only one in ten people have quit, and no decrease has been recorded in Maori and Pasifika groups.
The drive to sell tobacco on the black market is fuelling crime
In the meantime aggravated robberies are on the rise, and police reports have indicated that cigarette retailers are highly targeted. Union director Jordan Williams said that households have less money and smokers are more likely to purchase cigarettes on the blackmarket, fuelling further robberies.
“The Government’s foot dragging suggests that the higher taxes were not about health, but about the money all along. The Government should halt increases to tobacco taxes, at least until the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine are fully legalised,” said Williams.
However last Sunday, Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said that she is in no hurry to take a decision. “There are no quick solutions to reducing harm from smoking or these crimes so we are looking broadly and thoroughly to ensure we make the best decisions we can in the interests of New Zealanders,” said Salesa.
Police documents confirm link between the increase in cigarettes tax and increased crime rate
In the meantime, police intelligence documents have attributed the increase in tobacco price and therefore the high returns on black market tobacco, as a contributing factor for the increased robberies.
In response to this New Zealand Association of Dairies, Groceries and Small Businesses Association president, Naginbhai Neil Patel said that these businesses are not feeling supported by the government. “The high tax doesn’t help. Robberies are increasing- it’s like a jewellery shop with high value items,” he said.
Read Further: Otago Daily Times