In March 2011 the New Zealand Government committed to a goal of becoming smoke free by 2025. Recently the government re-committed to a further four 10% annual tobacco tax increase to nudge more people to quit so we can all reach the Smokefree 2025 goal . The first of these increases will happen on the 1st of January 2017, New Year's Day.

Zoe Hawke, General Manager of the Tobacco Advocacy service at Hāpai Te Hauora reports that "The last four years of 10% tobacco tax increases has shown that New Zealand smokers are price sensitive and according to one New Zealand study, for every annual 10% increase in tax there was a 1% reduction in the number of people who smoke".

One of the criticisms around tobacco tax is the possibility for disproportionate stress that these taxes can have on low income families. There is evidence to suggest that many low income families will continue to purchase tobacco and will compensate by cutting back on essentials such as bread, milk or electricity.

Frank Chaloupka an international expert in tobacco tax acknowledges that low income families will be disproportionately affected by tobacco tax increases; however, his research shows that the economic benefits that low income people gain by quitting far outweigh the negative economic struggles that low income families experience by not quitting. Having stop smoking support available to smokers and their families alongside tax increase is essential.

The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) is firmly focused on improving everyone’s financial wellbeing, knowing that this can have a profound effect on many other aspects of our lives. We do this in a variety of ways including through face-to-face programmes, which help people to change their behaviour, as well as on a mass scale through our sorted.org.nz website.

“The Commission’s extensive work with Maori and Pacific communities during the past two years consistently highlights the link between improved financial capability and reduced tobacco, fast-food and alcohol consumption,” according to Peter Cordtz, Group Manager Community. “Being in control of our money gives us greater control over our lives– it’s easier to look after our health, change our habits and think about the future when we’re not stressing about money.”

Cordtz went on to say “We look forward to working with Hapai Te Hauora in 2017 to support their kaupapa.”

With the New Year's Day scheduled tobacco tax increases just a day away, it is time for all of is to talk to whānau members about planning to quit. Having support strategies in place such as knowing where you’re local stop smoking treatment service is, and what the number for quit line is can assist people in their quitting journey. “Quitline experiences its busiest time of year around January and February, with call volumes often increasing by 50%. Most people who contact Quitline are wanting to give up smoking for a number of reasons – not just cost. Cost increases alongside improving one’s own health, and for Whānau are the leading motivators for people to quit” says Andrew Slater, Quitline CEO. Quitline is available free, 24/7 including on New Years Day on 0800 778 778 and online at www.quit.org.nz.

Coupled with other interventions aimed at reducing tobacco use, tobacco tax is still a very effective tool in lowering our smoking rates.