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Tobacco taxes important, but new approaches also needed

Tobacco taxes important, but new approaches also needed – study

A just-published study suggests tobacco tax increases will need to be supplemented with other new approaches if New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal is to be achieved.

Tax rises of 10% per year could play an important role in helping achieve an end to the tobacco epidemic in New Zealand, but other strategies will almost certainly be required, says one of the study’s authors, Professor Tony Blakely, Director of the Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost-Effectiveness Programme (BODE3) at the University of Otago, Wellington.

The study, published in the international peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control, suggests that a continued commitment to the annual 10% increases in tobacco excise tax that the Government has legislated to 2016 – in addition to sustained other tobacco control activity such as ongoing Quitline and cessation support – would see New Zealand’s adult smoking fall from 15.1% in 2013 to about 8.7%.

If annual tax increases were 20%, BODE3’s modelling projects that smoking prevalence will fall to about 7.6% by 2025, Professor Blakely says.

“It is important to realise that these projections are just that – projections, similar to long-range weather forecasting. But they are based on the best assumptions we can make and best data we can access, and they are internationally peer-reviewed,” he says.

Tax will assist progress to a 5% or less smoking level, the working definition of achieving a smokefree New Zealand. But even 20% annual tax increases to 2025 will not be sufficient to achieve the 2025 goal, Professor Blakely says.

Taxes will also help bring down Māori smoking rates – but even with 20% increases, no population group in society will achieve the goal by 2025, he says.

“International evidence shows that increasing tobacco tax is one of the most important single tobacco control measures, and we encourage New Zealand policymakers to extend the annual tobacco tax increase from 2016. But we most likely need a wider range of strategies to achieve the Government’s smokefree goal.”

Another of the study’s authors, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, says supplementary options include new approaches to smoking cessation such as greater use of automated quitting advice provided over the internet, exploring new regulatory options around the e-cigarette market, and phasing down of nicotine levels in tobacco.

“One additional simple approach would be to follow Brazil and ban all additives to tobacco, including menthol and sugar.”

ends

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