Together Hāpai the National Tobacco Control Advocacy service and ASH - Action for Smokefree 2025, are appalled that the tobacco industry is using a front group to complain about tobacco taxes – the most effective way of reducing tobacco use. Hāpai and ASH want to expose the real reason behind the Association of Convenience Stores recent claims that rising tax on tobacco are the cause of robberies of shops stocking cigarettes.

Zoe Hawke, Director of the Hāpai Advocacy service says that “’Members of the Association of Convenience Stores include British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, and they are simply capitalising on an opportunity to fight tobacco taxes for their own vested interests under the cover of the Convenience Store Association. The Association has a track record of opposing health policies including plain packaging and tobacco advertising display bands”

Chairman and founder of ASH, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole says that dairies are hard-working small business owners that deserve to be safe, but also deserve not to be used by the tobacco industry to stop tax increases and increase industry profits. Tobacco taxes are supporting many New Zealanders to quit smoking and prevent children from starting. Dairy owners like many other New Zealanders care about the health of their community”.

Hāpai and ASH agree that robberies reflect general societal problems, but attributing it to tobacco taxes fails to acknowledge and understand a range of complex social causes. Hāpai and ASH suggest one of the solutions is a fair and even-handed approach by selling tobacco products only from a limited number of safer environments.

The NZ Government has set a goal of Smokefree by 2025; this aim would see smoking prevalence decline to 5%. We are not on track to reach this target. Currently Māori smoking rates are at 38%, Pacific 24% and 15% for European and others. Māori smokers are the youngest to start smoking, at just over 14-years-old on average. Tobacco tax increases not only support smokers to quit, they also make cigarettes less attainable for youth. Tax increases should continue as well as many other measures to ensure that by 2025 there will be so few smokers that demand for cigarettes will be insignificant.