Hāpai Te Hauora agree with calls to reprioritise tobacco tax funds made in the recently released 'Future of Tax' interim report from the Tax Working Group. The group has called for the government to prioritise other measures with respect to smoking cessation. These include more educational campaigns and reinvestment of funds into initiatives which support people to stop smoking.
Mihi Blair, the General Manager of the Tobacco Control Advocacy Service at Hāpai, supports those recommendations and adds "we have an opportunity to support New Zealanders to transition to safer alternatives from tobacco and maintain their rangatiratanga, their self-determination, with the choice of safer alternatives". E-cigarettes or vaping is the most disruptive option to smoking which continues to kill over 4,500 New Zealanders every year.
Aotearoa has an opportunity to learn from other countries in regards to vaping legislation and if managed well, vaping can have a significant impact on smoking prevalence supporting the government goal of a Smokefree NZ by 2025. Vaping has been shown to have benefits for Māori women who in community-lead initiatives via vaping have managed to stop smoking and also positively support other areas of their life that are determinants to future good health, including financial well-being.
Smokers contribute 2.5% of the New Zealand tax take, and on the minimum wage, it takes a typical smoker three months of work just to pay for their year of smoking. It is time this government took a brave stand and reinvested a greater proportion of that tax spend into effective services and options that support people to stop smoking, education and mass media and with a view to start managing the supply of tobacco which has been highlighted in the media in recent years with increased dangers of selling tobacco at corner dairies.
New Zealand still has over 500,000 smokers, and prevalence is particularly high for some populations - especially Māori women. Tobacco addiction is causing health issues and financial hardship. "Hāpai believe that, in order to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal of less than five percent of the population smoking by 2025 this government should heed the advice of the Tax Working Group and explore the greater variety of options and choices available now other than tax, for which the greatest burden is borne by those on lower incomes. This includes; immediate actions around vaping regulations and legislation, reinvestment into effective mass media and a long term plan to investigate greater supply controls, similar to alcohol where retail sales are more strictly regulated." says Ms Blair.