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Tobacco tax works – for health and the economy

Tobacco tax works – for health and the economy

Health groups are calling on the Government to commit to achieving the Smokefree 2025 goal by announcing a new series of tobacco tax increases of 20% per year for at least four years.

Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole, of Auckland University notes that since the introduction of annual above inflation tobacco tax increases in 2010 the number of cigarettes sold in New Zealand has fallen by 23%, and the proportion of the population smoking regularly has fallen to a record low of under 17%.

Despite this evidence of tobacco tax increases reducing smoking, no plans have been announced for any further above inflation tax increases after the recent 10% increase this month. Research has shown that even if the 10% increases annually are continued this will not be enough to reach New Zealand’s goal of Smokefree 2025 (daily smoking prevalence under 5%)..

Dr Jan Pearson, chair of the National Smoke Free Working Group (NSFWG) notes that tobacco taxes not only reduce the risk of children and young adults starting to smoke and increase the proportion of smokers who quit, they also increase tax revenues. The extra income could be made available to ensure smokers receive all the support they need to quit, and also could be allocated to support the health system.

Zoe Martin Hawke of the National Maori Tobacco Control Leadership Service says that strong national actions in support of Māori communities where smoking prevalence is much higher are particularly important; otherwise the Smokefree 2025 goal is in danger of being missed by a wide margin for Māori.

Professor Richard Edwards of Otago University, Co-Director of ASPIRE 2025 says: “To get the maximum health benefits from tobacco tax increases, the evidence favours large and sustained tax increases of 20% per year for a period of at least four years. “This would be one of the most effective measures the government could take to put achievement of the Smokefree 2025 goal back on track.”

Dr Prudence Stone Executive Director of the Smokefree Coalition noted that rapid action is also needed on other measures to help achieve Smokefree 2025, most notably following the example of Australia, and now the UK, Ireland and France in implementing standardised packaging. “The legislation has been stalled awaiting a second reading for almost two years, despite overwhelming support at the first reading in February 2014 and from the Health Select Committee in August 2014.”

More information on tobacco tax in New Zealand is available from the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website: http://www.ash.org.nz/our-current-campaigns/tobacco-tax/

ASH New Zealand is a registered charity that produces and collects sound evidence to enable policy makers and communities to contribute to a Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand by 2025.


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