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Tax revenue from under-age tobacco sales

Friday 15 April 2005

Tax revenue from under-age tobacco sales

More than 40% of smokers, 14-16 years of age, had been able to purchase tobacco products from retailers, despite legislation that restricts sales of tobacco to those 18 years and older, a report published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal says.

The report by researchers at the University of Otago was based on data from the Health Sponsorship Council’s 2002 Youth Lifestyle Study survey of nearly 3,500 students from 82 secondary schools.

Despite being under age, many students reported experiencing no barriers to purchasing tobacco from retail outlets. Over a third reported purchasing tobacco products without being asked for any identification. Purchases were most often made from dairies and service stations.

The researchers also conservatively estimated that the total revenue collected for government from under age tobacco sales to 14-16 year-olds, alone, was around $12.5 million in 2002.

“We estimate that all underage retail sales of tobacco in 2002 were likely to have exceeded $25 million, of which about $17 million was tax revenue. It is of great concern that large amounts of tax are being collected from sales of an addictive product to young people,” says Helen Darling from the Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group.

Dr Tony Reeder, a co-author on the paper, suggested that more needs to be done to restrict youth access to tobacco products as part of a broader tobacco control programme.

“The revenue from underage sales of tobacco to young people should be funding health promotion programmes to reduce smoking and other health-compromising behaviours among youth.”

Such programmes could include educating parents about the consequences of permitting access to cigarettes by their children, more stringent controls on the display of tobacco products, tougher penalties for retailers caught selling tobacco to underage youth, and funding research on prevention of tobacco smoking among young people.


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