I’m not against rising the excise on tobacco but everyone knows that if this government was serious about reducing the harm from tobacco this isn’t the best way to go about it.
Addicts have what an economist would call ‘inelastic’ demand for tobacco, it doesn’t go down much with price. A 10% increase in price causes just a 4% decrease in consumption according to one study. So bumping up the price 30% might decrease use by 12% but it does that by taking a whole lot more money out of the, mostly poor, tobacco using population.
It would be better to use proven methods of decreasing use that don’t involve taking more money off the poor. One is banning cigarette displays. It is well known that these displays have a strong effect in encouraging young people to start smoking and that the best way to reduce tobacco harm is for people not to start smoking in the first place.
But banning these displays is something that National, for its weird ideological reasons, won’t consider. Associate Health Minister with responsibility for tobacco harm reduction, Tariana Turia, once considered getting rid of the displays a priority. But she’s too busy reprinting her business cards with ‘Minister for Whanau Ora (don’t ask what it is)’ to worry about stuff like Maori dying of lung cancer any more.
I also don’t get why National had to take Parliament into Urgency (in fact, Extraordinary Urgency) once again.
If they had their act together, they could have easily passed the tax increase in a single day without the cost of going into Urgency. It looks like this was another product of National’s haphazard, last minute decision-making and poor House management (remember the other day when they wasted half an hour of their law-passing time on a debate on Steven Joyce’s academic record?).
So, yeah, sure out up the excise, but why not do more effective things that don’t hurt the poor? And why can’t National get its act together in the House?