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Quitting tobacco would reduce poverty

Quitting tobacco would reduce poverty

Smokefree Coalition media release, 11 December 2013

This New Year’s increase will be the second of four tobacco tax increases taking effect each 1 January, in a Government initiative to bring the cost of the average pack of cigarettes to more than $20 by 2016.

Members of the Smokefree Coalition hope the increase in price brought about by taxation will nudge New Zealanders that still smoke, to give up.

“The average pack-a-day smoker stands to save more than $7000 a year if they give up smoking,” said Dr Kyle Perrin, Medical Director for the Asthma Foundation.

“Tobacco is part of the reason some New Zealanders are falling into poverty. We hope the price increase will help them make the smart decision, to save their money for the more important things in life.”

Smoking prevalence increases with increasing deprivation and is three times more common amongst people of low socioeconomic status. People from deprived areas are four times more likely to die from smoking. Among the members of the Smokefree Coalition there is concern that smokers from lower socio-economic backgrounds tend to pay the price and let some of the basic necessities slide. In response to this, there is a concerted push by cessation service providers such as Quitline, Smokechange, Aukati Kai Papa and Pacific Quit Services, to promote nicotine replacement therapy and coaching to quit in lower socio-demographic communities.

“There is free and accessible help to quit and if adults in a family do quit they will have more money to spend on their children,” Paula Snowden, Chief Executive of Quitline, said.

“Smoking is highly addictive and quitting is hard when you are under stress, but it can be done and thousands do quit successfully, with help and support, every year. A smokefree family have more money and better health.”

Tax increases are the most effective measure to stimulate people to quit, according to a recent Lancet report, and New Zealand’s own prevalence monitoring. Smokefree Coalition urge New Zealanders that still smoke to engage with their services for a greater chance of successfully quitting, for the good of their children and for the good of our country.

“Our services improve a person’s chances of quitting successfully by 5 times than if they made the attempt cold turkey. We hope we’re inundated with callers this January,” said Snowden.

In 2011 the Government agreed to the goal of New Zealand becoming essentially Smokefree by 2025. The current smoking prevalence rate in New Zealand is 15 percent.

Smokefree Coalition members are concerned that prevalence is not falling fast enough to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal. This is why, when the Government Expenditure Select Committee presided over the tobacco excise tax legislation in 2011, members submitted their support for higher increases, as well as the elimination of duty free allowances.

“Reducing the duty-free allowance on cigarettes and tobacco will remove access to cheaper tobacco, and SFC members believe this will result in greater incentives to quit,” said Dr Jan Pearson, Chairperson of the Smokefree Coalition and the Cancer Society’s National Health Promotion Manager. “It will also discourage travellers from giving the lethal gift of cigarettes to friends and family at Christmas.”

“The consumption of duty-free tobacco consumed in New Zealand may be increasing as the price on regular tobacco products increases,” said Julia Lyon, the Stroke Foundation’s National Health Promotion Manager.

“This means the government is losing well over 60 million dollars of its tax revenue from tobacco.”

Following 10 percent tobacco excise tax increases in January 2012 and 2013, the average cigarette retail price increased by 14.6 percent, despite Treasury’s prediction of only a 7.9 percent price hike. Tobacco’s excise tax is scheduled for another 10 per cent increase this 1 January, but once again, tobacco prices are up to the tobacco industry to determine, and may be even higher.

The free number to call for the national Quitline is 0800 778 778. Local cessation coaching services can be found through www.smokefreecontacts.org.nz


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