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Tobacco tax hikes a raid on the wallets of Māori

With tobacco tax from Māori taking more than what is paid in treaty settlements, tomorrow’s tobacco excise tax hike is being labelled ‘a raid on the wallets of Māori’ by the Taxpayers’ Union.

Speaking from Rotorua this morning, Jordan Williams, the Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union said, “The annual cost of tobacco tax to Māori is approximately $120 million more than the combined annual budget of the entire Vote Māori Development portfolio and the average annual amount spent on Treaty Settlements. This is the inevitable result of charging the world's highest income-adjusted rate of tobacco excise, and a huge proportion of smokers being Māori.”

“In short, the Government gives with one hand and takes far more with the other, undermining decades of effort to improve outcomes for Māori.”

“Even the Government’s own advisors are pointing out the Smokefree 2025 target doesn’t require never-ending taxes on the poorest. If the Government made it easier for smokeless products like vapes and heated tobacco to be marketed, current smokers may be more likely to shift over, improving health outcomes and reducing the burden of tobacco excise on themselves and their families.”

“We say excise on tobacco products should be weighted according to health risks, if reduced health risks can be proven. As alternative tobacco products become more popular, there is a growing body of evidence showing reduced health risks for heated-tobacco, snus, and e-cigarettes. Using price signals to encourage smokers to adopt a product with reduced health risks could make an enormous improvement to long-run health outcomes – in addition to limiting the burden of excise.”

Ka Tukuna Atu, Ka Tukuna Mai key findings:

1) The Government annually takes $120 million more from Māori via tobacco excise than it gives in Treaty Settlements and Māori Development funding.

2) When calculated as a proportion of income, New Zealand charges smokers the most punitive tobacco tax rate in the developed world.

3) There is increasing evidence to suggest that smokeless tobacco products like snus and heat-not-burn are far less harmful than cigarettes, and encourage people to quit smoking. Excise tax rates on these products should be weighted to reflect risks.


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