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Can we expect more restrictions for tobacco retailers?

A group of health experts have called for the government to take drastic measures around tightening restrictions around the sale of tobacco products. 

The group, backed by Dame Tariana Turia, plans to present to new measures to the government this week.

Turia warns that the restrictions first applied in 2011 are far from reaching their 2025 goals if we continue at our current rate of supply.

The proposal has five key strategies to restrict the supply and consumption of tobacco. Including capping the amount of tobacco retailers at 300, compared to the 6500 that currently stock tobacco products.

Other recommendations that will be suggest to parliament include removing additives, continuing to raise the tax, having a minimum retail price and increasing the buying age. The last suggestion introduces a cut-off birth date for purchase, which means people born after December 2020 will never be allowed to buy cigarettes.

Turia, who is Maori Party co-founder, says the new plans address areas that have not been asses before, including “reducing the retail availability of tobacco, and reducing its appeal and addictiveness.”

Additional suggestions include ending the duty-free allowance; adding a one-off 15 per cent tax on roll-your-own cigarettes on top of the proposed total tax increase; and increasing campaigns targeted at Maori, Pacific and low-income smokers.

Tax and GST on tobacco generated about $1.3 billion in 2008-09 but did not cover the reported $400 million spent treating smoke-related diseases.

A 2014 study on the attitude of Kiwi retailers towards the sale of tobacco also highlighted concerns around theft, because of the high value and transportability of tobacco products.

The prohibition of tobacco has been strongly linked to most retail crimes, the full ban of retailers selling these products may deter violent crimes based around tobacco theft.

A recent Nielsen report ranked tobacco as the sixth most valuable category in supermarkets, with yearly unit sales of more than 19 million worth around $400 million. It’s also commonly sold in dairies and petrol stations.

The newest proposal is not the first since the 2011 goal was set. At the end of May last year, the Ministry of Health opened consultation on draft regulations to standardise tobacco products and their packaging.

Plain packaging. 

The new regulations meant limiting package branding and keeping tobacco products out of direct view from the customer.

The 2016 amendments also saw a planned series of four 10 percent annual tax hikes implemented. Those were expected to push the price of a 20-pack of cigarettes from around $20 to around $30 by 2020.

Smoke Free Area:

1) Adult smoking rates had dropped from 18 per cent in 2007 to 14 per cent in 2016.
2) Maori smoking rates sit at about 35 per cent for men, and 40 per cent for women.
3) New Zealand Health Survey data reveals an average of 13 people die from smoking-caused disease every day. (5000 per year)
4) At the current rate, Maori and Pacific individuals are not expected to be smoke free until 2060.

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