Time to rethink the tobacco problem?

Violent robberies of dairies and service stations have increased, with tobacco products often being the target. Is it time taxes on tobacco were reassessed?

I received this by email:

I find the zealotry of Turia on tobacco incredibly naive.

NZ has a huge problem with P and cannabis, not to mention black market tobacco, precisely because the taxes of tobacco have been increased so sharply. It was silly to think you could tax it out of existence, people can and will use substitutes. Entirely foreseeable side effects and banning dairies from selling tobacco will only run owners out of business and shift robberies to petrol stations and supermarkets.

I can understand the zealotry of Tiriana Turia to an extent, as Maori have been affected disproportionately by adverse effects of smoking. She drove the substantial increase in tobacco tax, and this has been effective in lowering rates of smoking.

Smokefree NZ: What are our smoking rates and how are they changing?

Smoking rates in New Zealand Aotearoa continue to reduce, with 17% of adults currently smoking, of which 15% smoke daily (this has dropped from 25% in 1996/97).

Although 605,000 New Zealand adults still smoke, over 700,000 have given up smoking and more than 1.9 million New Zealanders have never smoked regularly.

That means over 2 million people, over half the population, must have smoked regularly at some time in their lives.

Smoking has changed in the last half century from a socially acceptable (by those who smoked) widespread practice to a fringe activity.

Social pressure against smoking and rising prices are having an effect overall.

  • Youth aged 15–17 6% (down from 16% in 2006/07)
  • Young adults 18-24 24% (down from 28% in 2006/07; however this age range now has the highest smoking rates of any age group)

Younger people are smoking much less, perhaps due to price pressure as much as peer pressure, but rates jump when they have more money available.

However Turia’s concerns are obvious when you see this demographic:

  • Māori adults 38% (40% in 2007)

That’s over twice the overall rate, and it has hardly come down. So price pressure can’t be working effectively.

  • Pacific adults 24% (26% in 2007)

That hasn’t moved much either.

Is it time for a rethink on how to address this? Maori and Pacific people may need different incentives to quit smoking (or better, to not start smoking). Rising prices just seems to give some an incentive to steal.

Maori and Pacific Island people also figure disproportionately in unemployment and low incomes. The price of tobacco puts even more financial pressure on them.

Logically one might think that $20 a packet of cigarettes – that used to be a common daily consumption level – would be a huge deterrent, but for some demographics it obviously isn’t working much.

Why do young people start smoking in the first place? Not getting addicted is an obvious aim, but prevention is proving difficult amongst Maori in particular.

Further increases in prices are likely to increase related crime, increase deprivation and push some to other drugs – cannabis must be getting price competitive, and smokers must be more easily tempted harder drugs as well.

It looks obvious that a rethink and a different approach is needed.

It’s easy to see what is not working, but it’s a lot more difficult to come up with effective solutions.

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71 Comments

  1. Conspiratoor

     /  29th March 2017

    Time for a radical rethink? Sell cancer sticks at cost and allow Darwin to purge the gene pool over time. Crime would fall as a byproduct. And on a similar theme lets make seatbelts optional

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th March 2017

      Why bother doing that with the seatbelts? The ones you’re thinking about treat them as opitional anyway, & the government probably collects the fine from a small number of them as well … eventually.

      Reply
      • Conspiratoor

         /  29th March 2017

        Quite possibly true G but I’m casting the net a little wider than the brain dead. Idiots should be presented with opportunities to top themselves. This is in the long term interests of the human race. Added benefit it would eliminate much of the feral underclass who make zero contribution to society. Cheers,c

        Reply
        • Anonymous Coward

           /  29th March 2017

          Just put Arsenic in any ‘supermarket item’ sold at the warehouse, that ought’a do it.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  29th March 2017

          Well, all very well, c, but you have to remember that many people who do idiot things – especially young men – learn from it & go on to achieve greatness.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th March 2017

            what examples do you have?

            Reply
          • Conspiratoor

             /  29th March 2017

            If they have the capacity to learn G, do they also have the capcity to stop before it becomes a death sentence. I’m not talking about compulsion here

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  29th March 2017

            @ Ozzy Osbourne? 😳

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  29th March 2017

              I cannot believe that if tobacco was banned altogether (the idea of banning one source is idiotic) people would begin to use drugs instead. People who stop smoking don’t begin using drugs-what would the point be ? And shops are unlikely to start selling these instead.

  2. David

     /  29th March 2017

    If you look at the stats the reduction in smokers has almost flat lined and the ongoing 10% price increases are loosing affect. On the flip side much fewer younger people are starting to smoke and sure price will play a part but its just no longer cool or popular to smoke.
    I personally think we have passed the point where the tax rates are having to big an impact on poor peoples budgets. I am a reformed smoker and let me tell you it is not easy to quit especially when surrounded by smokers in your community.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th March 2017

      “loosing affect”? God our education has a lot to answer for.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  29th March 2017

        (Otherwise, good post 😀)

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  29th March 2017

          It could well be easier to stop now that fewer people are doing it. Also, there is help widely available..

          Reply
  3. Nelly Smickers

     /  29th March 2017

    A couple of Auckland based *Indian entrepreneurs* have just started a one-hour Home Delivery Service for *Fags & Booze*.

    Probably be safe enough for the drivers if they limit deliveries to the likes of say Remuera and Epsom XD

    >>>> It’s called *On the Rocks*

    Reply
  4. I don’t see how we can sensibly talk about “freedom of choice” with this happening, this glaring example of the ‘unintended’ consequences of removing freedom of choice …

    How about leaving tobacco at the ‘plateau’ it seems to have reached and starting to progressively raise tax on alcohol … but obviously not too much … learn from our mistakes?

    Other incentives for giving up? Make E-cigarettes more accessible? Cheaper? Subsidised?

    And, of course, rationalise the law regarding cannabis …

    All these substances, which no amount of prohibition will ever stop some people using, could be regulated industries – due to their danger – and major employers and significant tax-payers … with the added bonus of reducing crime in our society … possibly radically reducing crime …?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th March 2017

      Careful. Al & Trumpy can go right over the top when they see the ‘R’ word. 😳

      Reply
      • Removing? Reducing? Regulating? ….. Radically!?

        I’ll give them the ‘F’ word Gezza … ‘Freedom’ … and the ‘R’ word that comes with it …

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  29th March 2017

          The Regulation word. You know what he’s like. It’ll be all “loony lefties” & “more useless bureaucrats” & stuff like that. Gives them the heebie jeebies. 😳

          Reply
          • I was thinking “Responsibility” …

            But yes, responsibility has to be decided by someone, so in the political (or mass) arena necessarily becomes regulation … complete with heebie jeebies … 🙂

            Oh Gezza … If only we could just try-out anarchy for a day …

            “What’d you do on your Anarchy-Day holiday?”

            “Whatever I f*#ken wanted to!”

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  29th March 2017

              I’d either play guitar or blow shit up I reckon PZ.

            • That’s anarchy at play (or at work) Gezza …

              Playing guitar = Responsible Freedom …

              Blowing shit up = Irresponsible and Dangerous Freedom … that’s why we have laws against doing it randomly … and why doing it is regulated …

            • Gezza

               /  29th March 2017

              What about if I rang the government first & said “Have you got any shit you want blown up on Anarchy Day? If so, 😎 I’m your man. 👍”

            • That’s a whole ‘nother thing again Gezza … that’s becoming a consultant …

    • Gezza

       /  29th March 2017

      Looks like the government’s all good with e-cigs & vaping PZ …

      Drug pushers

      E-cigarettes will be legalised: Government

      The sale of nicotine e-cigarettes will be legalised in New Zealand, the Government has confirmed – and the Associate Health Minister even encourages reporters to try vaping.

      A law change will be needed and is likely to be completed next year, although the Government says it will do so sooner if possible.

      Today’s announcement is a big win for the e-cigarette industry – its products won’t be in plain packaging, nor will the hefty taxes on normal tobacco be applied.

      Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said the change came despite the fact scientific evidence of the safety of e-cigarettes was still developing.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11827700

      Reply
      • The really good thing about e-cigarettes is that you don’t have to smoke nicotine (plus 40+ other chemicals) in them … You can smoke Apple or Citrus if you want to …

        On very rare occasions, I personally prefer Banana Leaf au naturale …

        Breathe anything other than air into your lungs and you’re probably looking at some sort of effect, short or long term …

        Years ago, who’d have thought we’d be pushing ‘caffienated’ hyper-active ‘Sport & Adventure’ soft-drinks to our ADHD children …? Still, it sells ‘V’ et al … and it sells Ritolin …

        All in the name of our ‘free-market’ economy …

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th March 2017

          Are caffeinated drinks marketed in that way ? I haven’t seen any ads aimed at ADHD children.

          Reply
          • I was speaking a bit ‘loosely’ Miss Kitty, but they are promoted into the ‘Youth Market’, which inevitably filters down to children …

            Don’t look for TV commercials though … Look for sports sponsorship … Adventure lifestyle magazines … ‘branded’ clothing and products …

            And perhaps a social media, online media presence? I don’t know …

            TV ads have all-but had their day …

            Reply
  5. Corky

     /  29th March 2017

    My hard bitten Leftie aunt always said smokes and beer where the working mans perk.
    Sedative would be more like it as everyday was an uninspiring day. I say gives us our fags, and give us our freedom.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  29th March 2017

      Some ‘perk’.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  30th March 2017

        Ok, then…the TAB? Not everyone is a puritan like you, Kitty.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th March 2017

          Those things would only be perks if they went with the job, which they don’t-a perk is something that is included in a workplace, like shopworkers having a discount. No workplace that I have ever heard of gives out beer and cigs as a perk. These are also not only available to the working class, so it’s even siller to describe them as the ‘working man’s perk.’

          Cigarettes would be a very odd perk. A perk that gives people bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer ? As I said-some perk. I don’t think.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  30th March 2017

            jeezus Kitty….what perk means in this instance..is that the poor ,exploited wage slave ,that if hes lucky gets barely enought to exist on,has only a fleeting pleasure in indulging in alcohol and cigarettes to numb the pain of feudal sevitude to enrich those ..born to rule.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  30th March 2017

              Oh, for goodness sake, haven’t we moved on from that stale thinking by now ? Feudal servitude went out when i? Centuries ago, except in Russia. If someone is barely earning enough to exist on, how can they afford alcohol and tobacco ? Those are very expensive pleasures for a poor, exploited wage slave, surely.

              Perk is short for perquisite; a perquisite is a fringe benefit of one’s work. Ergo, a perk is also that.

            • Blazer

               /  30th March 2017

              Feudalism has never gone out..it just has new..clothes.

  6. Blazer

     /  29th March 2017

    you are welcome to your …fags…AFAIAC.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  29th March 2017

      I have given up smoking. Its bad for you. But others haven’t. You have shown the right attitude. Well done…for a Leftie.

      Reply
  7. Patzcuaro

     /  29th March 2017

    Dairies and service stations make a choice to stock cigarettes, they can make a choice to not stock cigarettes.

    This is capitalism at work, you sell a product up to the point that you start making losses. That point is up to the individual cigarette stockist. When does the downside of selling cigarettes (risk of harm from violent robbery) exceed the upside (profit).

    If the dairies & service stations are concerned about violent robberies they could hire private security but this eats into profits. Are they trying to socialise that cost by getting the rest of us to pay via increased police numbers. The police force provides a basic level of service, but if you are operating in a high risk area then you should have to bear the increased cost.

    On the tax front, the government should be recouping from cigarette sales, via taxes, the future costs (medical) associated with using cigarettes. You can’t expect to smoke cheap cigarettes and then expect the rest of us to pay for the expensive medical care.

    Reply
    • Griff

       /  29th March 2017

      Smoker already pay more than their fair share of medical costs.
      When you add in the saving from dying sooner smokers are being screwed over.

      Vaping is the answer for anyone who smokes.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_cigarette
      The smoking lobby if it was honest would be pushing it as a safer alternative.
      Instead it is illegal to sell nicotine based vaping fluid in NZ.

      Reply
    • @ Patzcuaro – “This is capitalism at work … You can’t expect to smoke cheap cigarettes and then expect the rest of us to pay for the expensive medical care.”

      Your whole comment takes no account of the government’s strategy to tax tobacco out of existence … such an environment, promoting robbery, is hardly “capitalism” …

      The rest of us pay through the nose (and every other orifice) for the harm done by *cheap* alcohol …

      Reply
  8. Bill Brown

     /  29th March 2017

    Never seen the thrill in smoking – bad breath, stinky clothes, higher risk of forms of cancer, oh not to forget bloody expensive

    Still a ban will only lead to other vices

    Reply
  9. end tobacco & legalise herb, it smells better !

    trying to bring in controls, only makes a black-market more likely

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  29th March 2017

      Exactly Zedd. The black market is already alive & well. I ‘know a guy’ who can get me 50 grams of homegrown tobacco, for $30, which is less than half of what a 50 gram costs at the dairy. I prefer ‘tailies’ though, and only smoke two or three packs/week, so will continue to indulge my bad habit legally…

      Reply
    • @ Zedd – ” … trying to bring in controls, only makes a black-market more likely”

      Not sure I agree with that Zedd. An uncontrolled and unregulated cannabis market could easily be a disaster … Worse than what we have now …

      Whereas a controlled and regulated market, like tobacco, could create a massive, legitimate tax-paying industry that employs people and even earns export dollars …

      I also firmly believe a suitable quantity of grow-your-own should be included in any legislation to legalise or decriminalise dope …

      I gave up smoking ciggies when the cost got too high for me, along with the effect on my lung capacity … but the sales-tax situation has gotten chronically worse since then … ultimately it seems abolition and even the tendency toward abolition is counter-productive for almost anything …

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  29th March 2017

        I gave up smoking ciggies when the cost got too high for me, along with the effect on my lung capacity

        Personally, PZ, I gave up smoking regularly for the latter reason. Attempting to turn my lungs inside out every morning, was enough to make me realise that I wasn’t doing my health any favours… And my kids heard me doing it, which is why they will never smoke…
        I still enjoy a couple of ciggys every day, with a beer after work. My kids see me doing it, and regard it as ‘An old person’s habit’. It’s not something they aspire to.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th March 2017

          Yes, the sound of a smoker’s cough would turn anyone off. If that could be recorded and played on ads, smoking would plummet.

          I would have thought that a homegrown black market would be small and more trouble than it was worth.

          When I see someone using a hookah to smoke, I must admit that I’d like to see what that’s like. It always looks very exotic & Eastern-Arabian Nights..

          Reply
          • patupaiarehe

             /  30th March 2017

            I would have thought that a homegrown black market would be small and more trouble than it was worth.

            Lets do the math on that one, Kitty. One is legally allowed to possess 15kg of home grown tobacco/year. A 50 gram packet of tobacco now costs around $70 at the dairy, so lets work on a black market price of half that. $35 x 20 = $700/kg. $700 x 15 = $10,500. So someone on the dole, could almost double their income, and unlike growing pot, the cops could do sweet FA about it, until they caught one selling it…

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  30th March 2017

              Yes, indeed, but people would have to grow a massive amount if it was the only source in the country.

              $70 !!! If I had been going to buy a packet, the shopkeeper would have had a good laugh at what I imagined it to cost.

  10. Kitty Catkin

     /  30th March 2017

    Why don’t people just grow their own ? That’s legal. It’s only illegal to give it away or sell it.

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  30th March 2017

      Growing it is the easy part Kitty. There is an ‘art’ to drying & curing it properly, which takes a while to learn, & a lot of effort. Not to mention time, from harvest to smokable tobacco, takes a minimum of two weeks.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th March 2017

        If they want it badly enough, they should learn-that’s their problem, I’m afraid, Buy it or grow it-spend a fortune or save it-their choice.

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  30th March 2017

          If I was unemployed, I would definitely grow a lot more than I currently do. It’s a hobby for me, that I do because I can. Freshly cured virginia tobacco, if done right, is a really ‘light’ smoke, with a very subtle floral taste.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  30th March 2017

            Just out of curiosity, where did you find the original plants and how much space do they need ? Not that I am thinking of growing it, I just wondered how much space an average smoker would need and how much it costs to get going.

            Reply
            • patupaiarehe

               /  30th March 2017

              Cost me $5 to get started (see the link below). Unlike pot, it doesn’t matter if it ‘goes to seed’, and one plant will produce enough seeds to sow a hectare. I plant mine 3 metres apart, so that I can walk in between them, but one could get away with 2, if space was an issue. The highest one I’ve grown, was about 7 ft tall. BTW, the picture next to my name, is tobacco blossom 🙂

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  31st March 2017

              Why on earth don’t more people-if they MUST smoke-do this ? Laziness ? Ignorance ?

            • patupaiarehe

               /  31st March 2017

              A combination of both I suspect. I imagine also, that most landlords would be far from impressed, to see a tobacco crop where a lawn once was… 😀

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  31st March 2017

              They could have it at the back and claim that it was a flower garden.

              A man I worked with said that his sister and brother-in-law had a nice little crop of marijuana at the back, and when it was ready they went out to find it gone and a neatly printed wooden sign where it had been. It said

              ‘IT’S A CRUEL WORLD, BABY.’

              😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

            • patupaiarehe

               /  31st March 2017

              Had a similar experience, a few years back, Kitty. ‘Dirty buggers’, I thought, but the culprits knew that I couldn’t complain to the cops…

    • Blazer

       /  30th March 2017

      is growing your own tobacco legal?

      Reply
      • According to this “Although it is illegal in New Zealand to sell or gift home-grown tobacco plants, people can legally grow tobacco for their own use and sell and buy the seeds.”

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=11388999

        Reply
      • 68A Exemption for tobacco manufactured for personal use
        (1) Section 68 does not apply to the manufacture of tobacco in a private house or dwelling place, but only if and as long as the conditions specified in subsection (2) are met.
        (2) The conditions are as follows:
        (a) the tobacco must be manufactured by an individual (the individual) who is 18 years or older:
        (b) the individual must manufacture the tobacco in the individual’s private house or dwelling place, for the individual’s personal use and not for sale to any other person:
        (c) the leaves or plants used in the manufacture of the tobacco must have been grown—
        (i) on the land on which the individual’s private house or dwelling place is located; and
        (ii) for the individual’s personal use and not for sale or other disposition to any other person:
        (d) the amount of manufactured tobacco that is manufactured in the individual’s private house or dwelling place, in any year ending with 30 June, must not exceed 15 kilograms.

        Section 68A: inserted, on 1 October 2008, by section 8 of the Customs and Excise Amendment Act (No 3) 2008 (2008 No 68).

        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1996/0027/latest/whole.html

        Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  30th March 2017
        Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th March 2017

        See above reply.

        Reply
  11. Blazer

     /  30th March 2017

    Reply
  12. Griff

     /  30th March 2017

    Reply

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