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Tied Tobacco Tax Needed To Fund Quitting

Tied Tobacco Tax Needed To Fund Quitting Say Researchers

More money collected in tobacco tax should be spent trying to help New Zealanders quit smoking, says Otago University researcher Dr Nick Wilson in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal.

“We’ve got over 4,700 New Zealanders dying every year as a direct result of smoking cigarettes. The Government collects over $900 million each year from tobacco tax, but less than 3 percent of this amount is spent on preventing smoking and helping smokers to quit. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that something is very wrong with this equation.”

Dr Wilson and colleague Dr George Thomson have published the report, which reviews a number of New Zealand based studies showing that tobacco taxation helps reduce smoking.

“Research carried out in New Zealand backs up international evidence that increasing the price of cigarettes is an extremely effective way of getting people to reduce the amount they smoke, or to quit altogether. But it’s essential that we use the tobacco tax money that smokers are paying to give them better access to quit smoking support and advice.”

According to Dr Wilson, a good start would be channelling all tax raised in annual tobacco tax inflation-adjustments towards quitting programmes.

Smokefree Coalition Director Leigh Sturgiss agrees, and says the money should be used to better fund and expand existing cessation services, such as the free phone Quitline service and face-to-face service Aukati Kai Paipa, and to support wider tobacco control efforts.

“If just 10 percent of the $900 million collected in tobacco tax was spent on helping people to quit or to encourage them not to take up smoking in the first place, we’d soon see a drop in New Zealand’s smoking rates. How many people have to die before the Government provides adequate funding for tobacco control?”



Authors: Nick Wilson/George Thomson. Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 7343, Wellington South, New Zealand.

There is good evidence that tobacco taxation helps reduce tobacco consumption in New Zealand. This evidence is consistent with international research that tobacco taxation is the most cost effective tobacco control option in all regions of the world. A 10 percent tobacco price increase during the 1988 to 1998 period lowered the number of cigarettes purchased by the average smoking household in New Zealand by between 5 to 8 percent. A survey in 2003 reported that 71 percent of those surveyed supported tobacco tax “to encourage healthier lifestyles.” The opposition by the tobacco industry based in New Zealand to tobacco taxation suggests that this intervention threatens sales and industry profits. However substantial scope exists for improving tobacco taxation policy in New Zealand to better protect public health; specifically the need for a tied tobacco tax, adopting a long-term strategy of regular price increases, and assisting smokers by providing enhanced access to quit smoking services.

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