By Lucy Bennett
Nothing is being ruled in or out in a review of tobacco taxes, including reducing excise and pushing out the Smokefree 2025 target, Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa says.
“In terms of whether or not we will continue the tax or not will be a decision that Cabinet will have to make in around November,” Salesa said today.
“I’m not ruling in or ruling out anything. All I’m saying is that in November Cabinet will have a decision on excise tax.”
A review of the impact of tobacco tax, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, is looking at the financial impact on smokers, their families, illicit trade and crime. It is due to be completed by November.
Salesa, who has ministerial responsibility for tobacco control, said an action plan being drafted would hopefully get New Zealand to its Smokefree 2025 target but it was not realistic for some hard to reach groups such as Māori and Pasifika smokers.
Asked whether the date could be shifted further out, Salesa said: “I’m not ruling that out.”
But Health Minister David Clark said the Government still hoped to reach that target, which is actually a reduction to 5 per cent of the population.
“The smokefree goal is set, alongside other smokefree goals around the world, and it requires minimal amounts of smoking across society and that’s what we’re aimed at.”
Clark said banning tobacco products from dairies was not something being considered.
“Generally bans, wherever they’ve been tried in the world … don’t work terribly well. Crime goes up and the taking of substances doesn’t necessarily go down.”
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has said the steady increase in excise on tobacco over the years was not reducing smoking rates.
He suggested that although he would like to reduce the amount of tax on tobacco, it would reduce the amount of revenue needed by the Government for other projects.
Tobacco excise brings in close to $2 billion for the Government each year.
“We can’t fix everything up at once because we’d be straight away probably down a billion dollars in taxation at a time when we’ve got so many deficits all around the country in every area of infrastructure,” he told Newstalk ZB today.
The price of tobacco products has been rising 10 per cent a year for the past few years. Each increase beings a reduction in smoking rates overall and for some groups but
others such as Maori and Pasifika remain stubbornly high.
Peters said not enough of the revenue collected, around 3 per cent, was being put into stopping smoking.
He also said the high price of tobacco was leading to murders and assaults at dairies when people robbed them of tobacco products.
National leader Simon Bridges said Peters was blaming taxes for the actions of criminals.
“The answer is staying tough on crime and the causes of crime. Making sure, actually, that you’ve got deterrent penalties so when thugs come into dairies and superettes with baseball bats intent on committing crimes .. that they are dealt with in a stern way that deters others.”
Bridges said the 2025 target was a challenge but smoking rates were reducing. He doubted the excise would be reduced. National would not be opposed to more of the revenue collected through excise being put into smoking minimisation.
“There’s always … more that you can do. We wouldn’t be opposed to that necessarily,” Bridges said.
Source: NZ Herald