Wednesday October 18, 2017   Last updated 22:21PM
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Time to turn the tables on the tobacco companies
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Time to turn the tables on the tobacco companies
WILLIE JACKSON

 

We have a violent crime wave in our community and it is time we were honest about it.

Week after week, we are confronted with CCTV footage of young men beating and bashing honest shopkeepers, all for tobacco.

What on earth has happened?

The price of cigarettes and tobacco has gone up 10 per cent as of January 1st as part of the government scheme to get people to quit smoking due to their high prices.

Maybe it's time we started looking at the failure of tobacco policy and how it is driving this violence. In 2013, the tobacco tax was lifted by 40 per cent, and then a further 20 per cent each year since then. At the exact same time as this, we have banned smoking in prisons.

In our rush to crush tobacco, social policy has actually exacerbated other social problems. Things are so bad that locked vending machines are being suggested as a solution. I doubt that will be enough.

It is time for us to acknowledge that never-ending tax hikes on tobacco prices aimed to deter smokers is causing counterproductive outcomes.

 

Let's look at the solutions.

Firstly we need to allow vaping to become the focus of helping smokers move away from burning tobacco as their choice of nicotine delivery.

Secondly instead of just punishing the smoker with tax hikes why don't we start punishing the tobacco companies?

British American Tobacco NZ made $200 million in profit last year. I say if it's good enough to hit the end user who so often is just your average working class person then we hit the tobacco industry too with a super tax on their profits.

A 20 per cent super tax on British American Tobacco NZ would be $40 million into the tax coffers.

The third thing we need to consider is a review of the smoke free policy in jails. There is a strong view that says banning cigarettes inside prison has created a huge sinkhole of demand that is feeding the violence we are seeing in our local dairy. It is a view that warrants serious consideration.

Tobacco is an addictive drug that takes far too many Kiwis each year, and has had a particularly brutal impact on our Māori and Pacific Island communities, but in our haste to hurt the smoker in the pocket, we've created an environment where tobacco is now a legitimate black market target.

We can fix this and make sure our shopkeepers feel safer but it requires an open mind to find the balance between health and safety. To me it looks like we have had Governments and politicians more focused on gaining the revenue from tobacco tax than the welfare of the people which makes me wonder who is the bigger addict, the tobacco smokers or the Government collecting tobacco taxation.

 

 

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