The New Zealand government is keeping quit on whether it intends to honor its promise to legalize e-cigarettes and vapor products after renewed calls for a law change as aggravated retail robberies increase and fewer people quit smoking.
Tax hikes on cigarettes have prompted just 10 percent of New Zealand’s smoking population- about 550,000- to quit. Retailers are bearing the brunt of the consequences, however, as retail robberies increase, according to the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.
The group is calling for the legalization of e-cigarettes, which are illegal to sell, supply or give away, but the new Labour-led Government isn’t committing to a previous National vow to regulate their use, according to a story in the Otago Daily Times.
The union released a report on the social effects of the tax hike, Up In Smoke: The Social Cost of Tobacco Excise, ahead of a Jan. 5, 10 percent tax increase on cigarettes, and accused the Government of being more interested in revenue gathering than reducing harm, according to the article.
In contrast, aggravated robberies are on the rise with police intelligence documents revealing cigarette retailers were targeted 490 times in a 13-month period, according to the story. Union director Jordan Williams says the tax hike regime in a bid to have a smokefree country by 2025 is a “complete failure”.
Households had less money and people were more likely to buy black market tobacco, fueling further robberies, he said, according to the Times story. “The Government’s foot dragging suggests that the higher taxes were not about health, but about the money all along. The Government should halt increases to tobacco taxes, at least until the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine are fully legalized.”
Police intelligence documents attributed the cost of tobacco as a likely contributing factor on robberies because of the high returns on black market tobacco, thought to be as high as a $10 profit on a $20 pack of cigarettes.
Dairy robberies are so frequent this year police launched a $1.8m anti-robbery scheme so vulnerable small businesses could apply for funding to beef up security.
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