The Government is planning to cut tobacco excise duty

Written By: - Date published: 9:36 am, January 25th, 2024 - 78 comments
Categories: health, nz first, Social issues, Tobacco, uncategorized - Tags:

British American Tobacco will be pleased.

Hot on the heels of the Government’s walk back from the previous Government’s smoke free policies is the disclosure that the Government is considering halting increases to excise duties on tobacco.  Currently the tax on tobacco increases by the rate of inflation.  The Government is investigating the implications of freezing increases for the next three years.

And the way this news has come out is really messy.

From Guyon Espiner at Radio New Zealand:

Cigarettes would be insulated from the full impact of inflation under a proposal from New Zealand First Associate Health Minister Casey Costello.

Currently, tobacco excise is increased each year in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

RNZ has learned Costello is proposing a three year freeze on CPI-related excise increases for smoked tobacco.

But when RNZ put that to her in an interview Costello said she hadn’t looked at it.

“I’ve had no discussions on that at all. Like, that’s – it’s not even something I specifically sought advice on,” she said. “I haven’t looked at a freeze on the excise at all.”

But RNZ has seen a Ministry of Health document, sent to Costello, which says the minister is proposing to freeze the excise tax.

“The additional information you provided to us proposed also to freeze the excise on smoked tobacco for three years,” the document says.

While Costello told RNZ she had not asked for advice on the issue, the Ministry of Health document appears to contradict that.

The document sent to Costello asks: “whether you would like advice in January 2024 to include implications of a three year freeze on CPI-related excise increases for smoked tobacco.” The ‘yes’ option is circled in the document, which was signed by Costello on 20 December, 2023.

On the face of it Costello’s comment is a porkie pie.  She said that she has no discussions on the issue and had not sought specific advice on it even though she clearly had.

On Radio New Zealand this morning she claimed that what she said was truthful because she had sought general advice not advice on this specifically.  There may be a way to reconcile these statements but what she said was extraordinarily misleading.

As I said previously the change in the smoke free policy would result in more money earned through tobacco excise tax increases but greater levels of cancer and in the medium to long term increased pressure on the health system.

If increases in the tax were shelved the amount of tax gathered would conceivably go down but an increase in smoking rates and the amount smoked would no doubt affect this.

Costello claimed that her desire is to make things easier for smokers.  If she really wanted to help them she would be working to increasing the minimum wage and benefit levels or her party would not have helped wind back the Fair Pay policy.  Her claims of a desire to help ring hollow.

78 comments on “The Government is planning to cut tobacco excise duty ”

  1. Gosman 1

    Not cut. The proposal (and it is just a proposal at this stage) is to not increase the duty. A pack of cigarettes is not going to get cheaper as a result.

    There is obviously a desire to switch the focus from blunt instruments of constantly increasing penalties people who smoke towards other methods of tackling smoking as their is still a committment to the Smokefree targets..

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Semantics. Each year cigarettes will be cheaper than they otherwise would be. There may be a "commitment" to meeting the smoke free goals but as with climate change there will be absolutely no means of meeting the goals.

    • adam 1.2

      One more example of of how, weasel words are used to squirm of a contract or honoring one's word.

      Gotta love act and their supporters for showing us on a almost daily basis this utterly vial part of our culture – the rip off practices, dishonesty, being very much less than trustworthy.

      • Rodel 1.2.1

        'Weasel words' is a great expression. Sums up the act party and their .supporters beautifully.

    • observer 1.3

      The defence that you and other government apologists have put up is that National and their sidekicks are only doing what they promised the voters before the election.

      On this issue, and others, that defence fails.

      You are welcome to show us when Luxon promised to do this.

      • Gosman 1.3.1

        When they mentioned they would tackle the cost of living crisis. Do you not agree that keeping duty on cigarettes stable rather than increasing them impacts the household budget of many low income families?

        • observer 1.3.1.1

          Breaking news: Government announces total price freeze, affecting all private business, and enforced by law.

          Gosman says that's fine, because they said they "would tackle the cost of living crisis".

          Obviously absurd. So try again. Address the policy.

        • georgecom 1.3.1.2

          about 7% of the population gosman
          a pretty facile argument

    • SPC 1.4

      This would have been fine, if they had not walked back from measures to reduce the numbers still smoking via reducing the nicotine (addictive substance) levels.

      Given this reduces their own revenues, but the other measure maintains the market for big tobacco, it sort of raises the issue of whether the coalition policy was a privately sponsored one.

  2. Ad 2

    OK here's one of the perverse things: it's poor people that smoke, mostly, so the massive income the state gets from tobacco taxes comes out of poor people mostly.

    The people smoking once a day at least and buying cigarettes are:

    • 108,000 Maori
    • 18,000 Pacifika
      • 17,000 young people
    • and about 140,000 or 6% of the Pakeha-Europeans

    The residual people who are paying this very large tax are pretty hard core and addicted. It is the poor and addicted who are paying a whopping tax that no one else in society directly pays for.

    https://www.smokefree.org.nz/smoking-its-effects/facts-figures

    It's not a bad equity question to raise.

    • James Simpson 2.1

      I agree

      It is one of the worst forms of regressive taxes. It is mostly paid by poorer people, and in paying it, they pay a much larger portion of their income than a richer smoker.

      • weka 2.1.1

        if we made cigarettes cheap again, more people would smoke. Catch 22.

        • James Simpson 2.1.1.1

          Indeed. Its a tricky one.

          I don't think making cigarettes cheap is wanted by anyone. But increasing tax on the poor now isn't a great outcome.

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            it's stupid if they don't put other things in alongside, but ultimately they either have to shift to a prescription model or end poverty.

      • Ad 2.1.2

        So my immediate answer to my own point is simply:

        Tobacco harm is so high to NZ society that the inequity of the targeted tax is worth imposing this tax on a specific segment of poor, brown, and young people.

        That is the basic if patrician view that allows this tax instrument to continue its excellent course bringing daily cigarette use below 7%.

        The simplistic "fairness" line isn't simple.

    • weka 2.2

      put cigaretttes on prescription and gradually withdraw them from OTC sale over time (one of Bill's ideas). Put in all the other supports as well.

      We could also end poverty.

      • Ad 2.2.1

        Would certainly enable THC cannabinoid products to go onto a similar regime.

        Which would be great for people who can't sleep or need mitigation of major chronic pain and brain damage.

        • weka 2.2.1.1

          not sure if you are being pointed there. Legalise cannabis and anyone who wants it would be able to access it for pain relief, sleep, etc. Regulating it as a drug makes it more expensive, which takes us back the same inequity issues as tobacco.

          the powers that be already plan to commercialise and regulate cannabis. The easy counter argument is that cannabis doesn't have alkaloid addiction in the way that tobacco does. But the commitment to commerce and the MoH's inability to see sense will rule.

          • gsays 2.2.1.1.1

            Aargh! Pot's status in law.

            A reminder of yet another disappointment of the last Labour government and it's senior MPs.

            Gangs still have their income stream and we can keep criminalising young caramel folk.

          • Ad 2.2.1.1.2

            Cannabis makes addicts of 10% of users according to the US Centre for Disease Control.

            You were proposing tobacco as prescription as prescription-only. Medicinal cannabis products must be already be dispensed in the same manner as other prescription medicines and controlled drugs.

            Simply puts the two into a similar regulated regime in terms of public access.

            • weka 2.2.1.1.2.1

              not quite. I was suggesting one way out of the tobacco catch 22 of restricting supply while not penalising poor people was to switch to a prescription model, because unlike cannabis, tobacco use causes an actual physiological addiction.

              Cannabis should be freely available because there are already many many people with access, but under threat of the law. I'm doubtful about the 10% figure, but sure, there are people who are habituated because of poverty, self medicating, stress etc. Meanwhile, most regular tobacco users are physiologically addicted, not simply habituated. The two things are not really comparable.

              Current medicinal cannabis is extremely expensive, thus poor people lose out, again. It's a stupid model that exists because we don't trust people to manage their pain etc themselves, and the state wants to make money from commercialisation.

              Our stop smoking approach has been very successful over decades. The small number of people who cannot stop should be supported, not pushed into poverty further.

              • Ad

                Your point only works for commercialised products.

                In New Zealand, people can legally grow tobacco for their own use, and can also sell and buy the seeds.

                Just like marijuana, it is illegal to sell or gift home-grown tobacco plants.

                • weka

                  yes, people can grow their own tobacco, but that's not happening on a scale large enough to be part of the main problem. The main issue is that tobacco is highly addictive and available for commercial sale, and the government is using pricing as one way to limit uptake and use and this harms poor people in other ways. In addition to current approaches, they could shift tobacco to a prescription service, like methadone and impact that way.

                  This is completely different from cannabis, which is not a physiologically addictive substance in the way that tobacco is, is widely used via illegal and sometimes dangerous trade and home grown. Legalising that would be a net boon to society, but legalising and controlling it like tobacco would perpetuate a range of problems we have with cannabis currently: access, affordability, but also blocking the many good growers in NZ who will be able to grow cannabis strains to suit different purposes (eg high CBD vs THC has different medicinal effects) once it is legalised.

                  THC/CBD products from labs are a different matter, they're a pharmaceutical. There is a crossover, because some products can be made at home.

                  • Ad

                    The only way to make tobacco prescription-only is to make it a medically regulated and approved product.

                    It's entirely fair to make the comparison between marijuana and tobacco smoking. No one has made consistent evidence that either substance poses a greater health risk than the other.

                    "On the one hand, marijuana joints have been shown to deliver at least four times as much tar to the lungs as tobacco cigarettes of equivalent weight. This difference is due to the lack of filters on joints and because marijuana smokers typically inhale a larger volume of smoke and take it more deeply into the lungs than tobacco smokers do. Marijuana smokers also tend to hold smoke in for a time before exhaling, exposing the lungs to even greater levels of cancer-causing agents.

                    On the other hand, because they are packed more tightly, commercial cigarettes produce more smoke than hand-rolled joints. That, plus the fact that most tobacco users typically smoke more cigarettes per day than their marijuana-using counterparts, means that over the course of a day most tobacco users take far more smoke into their lungs than people who smoke marijuana exclusively."

                    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224396/#:~:text=Scientists%20have%20compared%20marijuana%20and,health%20risk%20than%20the%20other.

                    Controlling tobacco and marijuana in their commercialised forms so that the downsides of both are controlled is what society would expect. We already do it with vapes, and Australia in particular is much stronger regulating vapes.

                    https://www.phcc.org.nz/briefing/what-can-aotearoa-nz-learn-australias-new-vaping-policies

                    Indeed in New Zealand the primary addictive component of both nicotine and cbd and thc are closely regulated.

                    Using medicinal marijuana legally means that you are using the right product in a safe way to improve your life. Using tobacco legally in a prescription-only form means that you are using the right product to minimise harm.

            • James Thrace 2.2.1.1.2.2

              Cannabis is not addictive.

              the 10% finding is likely a result of those who do chop – cannabis mixed in with tobacco.

              such users get addicted to the nicotine in such a mix.

              cannabis itself has no addictive properties.

        • SPC 2.2.1.2

          They should allow low THC level marijuana to be sold on market (not allowing this is corporatising access to a medicinal product – placing cost barriers)

          https://www.nomercysportsmedicine.com/blog/what-everyone-needs-to-know-about-low-thc-therapy

          GST revenue without re-litigating the referendum result.

          If there is a specific medicinal purpose for higher level THC marijuana make this by prescription.

          Allowing people to supply these products would provide "legal" jobs and wage and company tax revenues.

      • SPC 2.2.2

        Reducing the level of the addictive substance (nicotine) is the correct path and the one National walked away from – and yet it will be followed worldwide.

        Doctors should be able to refer people to addiction treatment including a cheap limited level of tobacco supply via a chemist in a package with patches and or vaping (the cost savings helping them with their bills and allow better nutrition etc).

        • Ad 2.2.2.1

          Yes agree.

          But isn't doctor advice to transition off the smoked form of tobacco to nicotine via vapes or patches already regular practise in New Zealand?

          • SPC 2.2.2.1.1

            Sure, but low cost smokes during the transition would be really useful to poor people and encourage them to try it. These are the hold outs here.

    • Sanctuary 2.3

      I know probably a good half dozen hard core smokers who gave up due to price. Now, they were all middle class but I'd wager the price point helps across all socio-economic groups.

  3. Gosman 3

    This idea that increased smoking leads to increased pressure on the health system seems very bogus to me and I believe doesn't stand up to real world scrutiny. It would be easy enough to produce actual hard evidence for or against though.

    The rate of smoking in NZ's population has dropped significantly in the past 12 + years. It has more than halved from 16.4% in 2011/12 to just 6.8% in 2022/23. If the argument is that increased smoking causes increased pressure on the health system and thus necessitates greater spending then the corollary to that is reducing smoking means less need for health spending.

    Has their been a sharp drop in spending on cancer treatment in NZ and reduced pressure generally? I suspect not as the demand on the health system simply moves to another area of the system.

    https://www.health.govt.nz/news-media/news-items/new-zealands-smoking-rates-continue-decline#:~:text=Data%20on%20smoking%20is%20collected,16.4%25%20in%202011%2F12.

    • weka 3.1

      Has their been a sharp drop in spending on cancer treatment in NZ and reduced pressure generally? I suspect not as the demand on the health system simply moves to another area of the system.

      you say that like it's a bad thing Gosman. Instead, consider that the drop in spending on health care for smoking illness is freed up to be spent on other urgently needed healthcare.

      The point of healthcare initiatives like this isn't to reduce the overall health budget. It's to preserve people's health via prevention and then to be able to offer treatment where it is still needed.

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        Where is the evidence that our health care system is managing to reprioritise this freed up money from cancer treatment?

    • Ad 3.2

      Like RUC, the state could always hypothecate (ie dedicate) all income from smoking tax to hospital respiratory and heart services.

      Except then the state health system gets perversely addicted to smoking tax income.

    • weka 3.3

      This idea that increased smoking leads to increased pressure on the health system seems very bogus to me and I believe doesn't stand up to real world scrutiny. It would be easy enough to produce actual hard evidence for or against though.

      Go on then, do the mahi of providing some supporting evidence for your argument. It shouldn't be too hard to produce evidence that shows treatment costs for smoking related illness have dropped alongside drops in smoking rates.

      You will also need to separate that out from increasing costs due to changes in technology, salaries, materials, shipping, and so on. Also factor in that some illness has multiple causes.

      • Gosman 3.3.1

        But that is the issue – Noone has really done a proper study on this yet there are claims being made that higher smoking rates mean higher demand on the health system and therefore necessitates increased health spending.

        The more likely situation in my view is that the people who may have been a cost to the health system due to their smoking are still going to be a drain of the health system for some other related illness (possibly lifestyle related) and potentially even in similar areas that they would have been if they were still smoking. Someone who develops cancer due to what they eat rather than what they smoke is still having to be treated in the same way.

        Human mortality rates are exactly 100% over time. Noone lives for ever. Therefore stopping someone dying from one cause just means they will die of something else and very well could be an even greater cost to the health system.

        • Belladonna 3.3.1.1

          A big issue with this, is the historic impacts on health of a substantial period as a smoker. If you've smoked for 40 years, quitting isn't going to magically restore your lungs to a 'never smoked' status. You may still develop smoking-related health conditions – even years after stopping smoking.

          Stopping smoking can prevent things getting worse, and may (over time) improve *some* health outcomes, but it will never be as 'good' for your health as never having smoked.

          There is also a self-reported element to all of the statistics – which makes even the ones we have, rather 'fuzzy'.

          • Gosman 3.3.1.1.1

            Indeed but what SHOULD be visible is a decreased demand for the health services associated with smoking related illnesses over time compared to total health spending. This is the sort of study that should be produced rather than that one that was published recently where they stated there was going to be 8000 more smokers in X number of years that would die amd would cost Y billion of dollars as a result of the Government not implementing the Smokefree changes that were planned to come in to effect. That was based on faulty logic.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 3.3.1.2

          But that is the issue – Noone has really done a proper study on this yet there are claims being made that higher smoking rates mean higher demand on the health system and therefore necessitates increased health spending.

          So, it's a patriotic Kiwi's duty to smoke, to stabilise (or decrease?) "health spending" and the "demand on the health system"? Dr Gosman, what have you been smoking?

          • Gosman 3.3.1.2.1

            Did I state that? This seems to be your rather perverse take on my position. If people are looking at increasing thei chances of living and staying healthy longer should not smoke. That much is clear. That is a personal choice. Those people will still die though and trying to argue that it will cost X amount to treat them as a smoker while ignoring that it is likely to cost a similar (if not more) amount regardless is a disingenuine argument and one that should not be made in my view.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 3.3.1.2.1.1

              Did I state that? This seems to be your rather perverse take on my position.

              Apologies, Gosman, for misinterpreting your belief that "This idea that increased smoking leads to increased pressure on the health system seems very bogus to me…". On the face of it, that particular belief seemed perverse (to me), but I’m happy to leave it to others to make a correct interpretation.

              Noone has really done a proper study on this yet there are claims being made that higher smoking rates mean higher demand on the health system and therefore necessitates increased health spending.

              Yes, truly extraordinary (almost unbelievable) that no one has done a proper study, particularly when you consider the scale of tobacco-related harms.

              Smoking
              Tobacco smoking is one of the world's largest health problems. Millions of people live in poor health because of it. Researchers estimate that every year around 8 million people die an early death due to smoking.

              It has been a major health problem for many decades. For the entire 20th century, it is estimated that around 100 million people died prematurely because of smoking, most of them in rich countries.

              The share of smokers among the world population is falling, and because smoking is such a large health problem today, this is one of the most positive developments in global health. It makes it possible for millions of people to live a longer and healthier life.

            • Robert Guyton 3.3.1.2.1.2

              "That is a personal choice"

              The nub of Gosman's argument.

              The nub of every argument Gosman makes.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 3.4

      Ending smoking could free up 75,000 GP appointments each month
      [7 March 2023]

      This idea that increased smoking leads to increased pressure on the health system seems very bogus to me…

      Prime Minister to create ‘smokefree generation’ by ending cigarette sales to those born on or after 1 January 2009 [4 Oct 2023]
      Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "No parent ever wants their child to start smoking. It is a deadly habit – killing tens of thousands of people and costing our NHS billions each year, while also being hugely detrimental to our productivity as a country."

      Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said "Smoking kills, places a huge burden on the NHS and costs the economy billions every year."

      Taking action on smoking and vaping [2 May 2023]
      The Albanese Government is taking strong action to reduce smoking and stamp out vaping – particularly among young Australians – through stronger legislation, enforcement, education and support.

      Meanwhile, in Aotearoa NZ, our new coalition govt’s methods for addressing tobacco-related harms seem rather 'retro' and ‘out-of-step’ – "bogus" even.

      New Zealand scraps world-first smoking ‘generation ban’ to fund tax cuts [27 Nov 2023]
      "As a fellow physician, you [Health Minister Reti] surely must know the costs of such short-sightedness," the letter said".

      Official documents suggest a NZ First minister wants to freeze excise tax on cigarettes – but she denies it [25 Jan 2024]
      "It seems absolutely astonishing that healthy products, like fruit and vegetables, would continue to have increases in prices as inflation rose but tobacco would be protected and I just can't think of a single other country that has privileged tobacco in that way," Hoek said.

      • Gosman 3.4.1

        Are GP visits being freed up significantly since smoking rates have more than halved since 2011/12? That study you published states we should be seeing less presure in this area. Is that the case?

        • Drowsy M. Kram 3.4.1.1

          You're barking – up the wrong tree. Aotearoa's growing and ageing population has contributed to "presure [sic] in this area" (GP appointments), imho.

          If you can make an evidence-based case in support of your apparent belief that smoking rates don't don’t affect demand for health services over time, go for it.

          • Gosman 3.4.1.1.1

            Ahhhh! So aging and people living longer are actually causing greater stresses on the health system such as GP's. Given the reduction in smoking rates will have been a factor in people living longer the supposed savings in the health system from a smoking reduction is not so clear cut now is it?

            • bwaghorn 3.4.1.1.1.1

              So your suggesting more we encourage smoking to ease pressure on the health system , with the added bonus of lease super to pay I suspect 😉

      • Ad 3.4.2

        Ending smoking could free up 75,000 GP appointments each month

        Has that happened in reality from the massive falls in tobacco use since 2020?

        No need to make predictions when the causal evidence should already be very clear.

    • Kokako 3.5

      I am almost speechless at this attempt to rationalise government support for tobacco (which must be unique in the world today). Smoking is the most preventable cancer risk agent there is, and if fewer smokers means that fewer people are getting lung cancer and that more resources are consequently available for other diseases, then that is a net win for public health. You sound like the fact that there is less smoking-related illness should be justification for reducing the health budget. Just astounding.

      • Gosman 3.5.1

        Are there more resources available for other diseases? Where is the evidence of a shift in funding over the past 10 to 20 years as smoking rates have plummeted?

    • Incognito 3.6

      Has their been a sharp drop in spending on cancer treatment in NZ and reduced pressure generally?

      What or which cancer treatment? Which cancers are smoking-related? Which of the 13 new cancer treatments promised by the coalition government are smoking-related? How much are these going to cost and where’s the money coming from?

  4. No-Skates 4

    How I became a full time smoker:

    "Hey boss. That customer really pissed me off. Do you mind if I go outside for ten minutes to cool off?"

    "What? No! Get back to work."

    "K… Mind if I go out for a smoke?"

    "Yeah, sure, I'll join ya."

    An expensive mistake in the long run, but smoking has saved my life several times. It was once a somewhat socially acceptable way from exiting a situation where my mental health problems would've likely made it worse.

    Would I have needed smokes if life wasn't such a grind for so little in return? Probably not. But the desperate will relent to a deal with the devil. And I think that goes for just about every smoker. That's why you see nurses cooped up underneath the back entry awning in the rain, the people who should know the best about the damage that smoking causes.

    Perhaps the Nats know this? Maybe they know we need something to take the edge off as they remove more worker's rights, pump up rents, and freeze the minimum wage?

    I'm probably way off the mark, otherwise they'd be in full favour of legalising Cannabis.

    • bwaghorn 4.1

      I used to work on an oil rig , duty free ciggies and more breaks than my non smoking Co workers because the drill floor was smoke free

  5. Michael 5

    Big Tobacco owns the government. A classic study of policy capture by vested interests.

  6. Darien Fenton 6

    The other part of this argument is second hand smoke and the impact on others. Perhaps people forget how it used to be at work in the tearoom, at meetings, in the local cafe, and in restaurants if you could afford them. Skycity casino workers campaigned 20 years ago to make their workplace smoke free from patrons. I can't believe we are even going there again but that's where this leads. All sounds suspiciously like Sunny Kaushal to me.

    • Mike the Lefty 6.1

      Dead right Darien.

      First they reduce the tobacco excise tax.

      Next they repeal smoke free legislation.

  7. Adrian 7

    I'll bet the tobacco industry money to NZ1, Act and the Nats is well hidden. What are the chances that it was channeled through dairy owners and the like by way of "rebates "to the sellers which were expected to be sent on to the parties. Come on Gower et al, do your bloody job, there is a smoking cigarette here somewhere.

  8. Descendant Of Smith 8

    Loots of young people won't be taking up smoking anyway. They'll have church groups managing their money. No smoke allowance there.

    Sanctions and incentives

    Young Jobseekers who fail to undertake agreed activities in their plan will face sanctions from MSD. Sanctions will include either temporary or permanent reduction in the Jobseeker benefit (the currently available sanctions which are underused), as well as money management. Money management (currently only applied to clients aged 16 to 19) is a more restrictive benefit where important costs (such as rent and bills) are paid directly by MSD, a small allowance is paid into the Jobseeker’s bank account, and the remainder is loaded onto a payment card that can only be used for essential items.

    https://www.national.org.nz/welfare_that_works

  9. As mentioned, people smoking less will save the poor more money than freezing the tax on cigarettes.

    Out of the smokefree legislation I like the idea of a smoke free generation and lower levels of nicotine. Even if they let all the places that currently sell cigs to continue to do so to prevent a "black market", then market forces will take care of the number of retailers eventually. Lower levels of nicotine will help people quit and save money and a smoke free generate will prevent a lot of people starting in the first place.

    Quitting a pack-a-day habit would save you over $250 a week, 10 times a tax cut. In the meantime keep making it more expensive and less desirable fine with me.

  10. observer 10

    Shane Reti needs to take control of the health portfolio, or resign as Minister. And Luxon needs to back him, not pander to NZF.

    Call for Luxon to replace Costello over cigarette tax freeze | New Zealand Doctor (nzdoctor.co.nz)

  11. tsmithfield 11

    Ok, I will bite on this one.

    Firstly, I fully support helping people cease smoking. The advent of vaping has certainly made it a lot easier to quit. Several of my children have been able to get off smoking that way. As Gosman points out above, smoking rates are already declining quite sharply. So, whatever we do, I think smoking is becoming progressively less popular.

    I think the best counter-argument to raising excise taxes is that it just encourages a black market in cigarettes. And, it encourages more crime such as ram-raids etc that target sellers of cigarettes.

    Cigarettes are already extremely expensive. And vaping is a very cheap alternative to smoking. So, the problems caused by continually increasing excise tax may well cause more problems than it solves, especially if the problem is on the way to being solved anyway.

    • Robert Guyton 11.1

      " So, whatever we do, I think smoking is becoming progressively less popular."

      The industry thinks otherwise and will do whatever it can to maximise its profits, which means, more nicotine in the lungs of the populace.

  12. Doogs 12

    The effects of smoking on a body is not immediate. Some smokers live to a ripe old age and are seemingly unaffected by their habit. Others die early from lung or heart related disease. For me it was a drawn out process. I began with cigarettes at 13-14 yo and after leaving school I was a full time smoker at 10-15 a day. I was using a pipe at some stage but went back to cigs. Suddenly at 38 I quit cold turkey. It wasn’t till I was in my 60s that I became more breathless and by 70 I had COPD. In the last 5 years I have to put up with less than 30% lung capacity. It severely affects my life. Things I want to do in retirement are now curtailed. It is a spurious argument to say smokers are an immediate drag on the health system. It took me about 25 years after quitting to need any serious medical intervention. If everyone quit now, the effects would likely be seen anything from 5 to 30 years later – or not at all. Raising the tax with inflation continues to hurt the poorest of addicted smokers. Freezing the tax for 3 years will allow many smokers to keep smoking for longer. My solution – compulsory reduction of nicotine content, more programmes to assist people not to smoke, have a plan to phase out tobacco altogether, seriously reduce the 700 or so retail outlets for vaping, have vapes only on prescription, make it socially unacceptable to smoke in any enclosed space and make it an offence to smoke on the street or in other public spaces. But then, this government . . . Not fucking likely!

  13. Corey 13

    Forget smoking, the biggest drain on our health service is not smokers it's people who eat their weight in sugar and lard and pay no sin taxes.

    If Labours anti smoking crusade is just about health and health costs and not telling people what to do then it's astounding Labour didn't implement a sugar tax.

    NZ is one of the most overweight countries on the planet, kiwis are eating themselves to death eroding their teeth with soda and draining the health service.

    If we are serious about health then it's time to tax fast food and junk food, ban fast food and junk food ads, sponsorships and put massive pictures of diseased hearts and organs on fast and junk food wrappers.

    Cigarette companies don't advertise to kids, maccas, coke and Cadbury do.

    Smoking taxes are excessive already and have already deterred pretty much everyone it's gonna deter and pays for smokers drain on health several times over

    Meanwhile the biggest killer and drain on nz health remains untaxed, celebrated and free to advertise to kids.

    • tsmithfield 13.1

      I think it is debatable whether smokers actually are a larger drain on the health system than others. That is because they tend to die earlier. Hence, have less time to incurr costs than non-smokers.

    • SPC 13.2

      It has to be bi-partisan – look what the new government did to the former government plans to reduce nicotine content.

      Ayesha Verrall said the government had asked for advice on introducing regulatory limits for sugar, salt and fast food portion sizes but wouldn’t commit to implementing them.

      She said obesity was “one of our major public health issues to confront” but regulation wasn’t always the solution. “I don't want to step into it with regulation that I don't think will stick.”

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/300974021/sugar-salt-and-portion-size-limits-pushed-by-health-officials

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