After an increase in excise tax on tobacco on January 1st, communities and smokefree advocates are calling for greater protection of those most affected by thefts from dairies. There has been a reported rise in dairy robberies over the last few months, purported to be in response to the increase in cigarette prices.
Hāpai Te Hauora challenges the prevailing narrative that robberies will continue until the price of tobacco and cigarettes come down. Dairy robberies occur all year round, not just after tax increases and they often involve theft of cash, which is a reflection of the desperate circumstances of those living in low paid communities. Entire communities need to be nurtured and protected from tobacco harm - not just dairies. Mihi Blair, General Manager of Tobacco Control Advocacy for Hāpai, says we need a Smokefree 2025 strategy that looks beyond tax alone, to other measures which reduce tobacco availability and appeal.
"There would be no cigarettes to steal if they weren’t available. Why aren’t we talking about how cigarettes are four times more available in low paid communities? Why are we only talking about ways to protect cigarettes and the shops that sell them, rather than creating a strategy to phase them out of our neighbourhoods?"
This month, smoking cessation service, Quitline, received a 30% increase in calls suggesting that taxes can motivate whānau to quit. However, a recent report on tobacco tax issued by the Ministry of Health found communities had mixed views on tobacco tax with many acknowledging that smokers would continue regardless of price due to the strength of the addiction. These findings support smokefree advocates’ calls for complementary interventions to achieve Smokefree 2025 to meet the diverse experience and needs of those who smoke.
"Every new year when there’s a tax increase, we have the same conversations about protecting dairies from theft. We hope to start a new, more important conversation by asking how the government can limit where cigarettes are sold so communities already affected by tobacco aren’t also harmed by the violence it is creating".