Last month, New Zealand’s Treasury released the Crown accounts for the seven months to January 31st, 2021, indicating a drop in tobacco tax revenue of almost $700 million compared to the same period last year.
This drop in tax revenue is being mainly attributed to a 47.8% decline in tobacco duty resulting from a reduced demand for tobacco products. “While not unexpected, the slump was steeper than anticipated, with the Government collecting $400m or 28.9 per cent less than was forecast in December’s Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update.”
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Louis Houlbrooke, said that smokers are disproportionately low-income and therefore the Government should allow this downward trend in tax takings to continue. “Instead, new regulations currently being considered by the Director-General of Health threaten to keep New Zealanders on the durries."
If vape laws are too stringent, fewer smokers will switch to the safer alternatives
Speaking about this positive downward trend in smoking, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) Nancy Loucas, said that if the Ministry of Health makes vaping regulations too stringent, fewer smokers will switch to the safer (and cheaper) alternatives in the future.
“This latest slump in tobacco tax collected was much bigger than expected, and vaping can take a lot of the credit for New Zealand’s declining rates of smoking over the past decade.
“However, if the proposed vaping regulations come into force vaping will be made a lot less attractive for smokers desperate to quit cigarettes. More Kiwis continuing to smoke might help Government revenue, but it won’t help reduce New Zealand smoking’s death rate of 5,000 people per annum,” she added.
Loucas highlighted that precisely for this reason, flavoured safer alternatives should be made more available rather than restricted as per the draft vaping regulations which would come into effect on the 11th of August.
“We know vapers quit smoking with fruit and dessert flavours. Adults love flavours and need them to be available everywhere cigarettes are sold. That would make common-sense right?”
Making vape flavours non-accessible to adults is illogical
She added that the logic behind limiting flavours for grownups, to prevent teens from taking up vaping is illogical. “Children are protected as much as possible with vaping products now heavily sanctioned R18. Significant penalties apply if retailers breach that, and like with alcohol and cigarettes, retailers will take the privilege incredibly seriously,” she said.
Loucas is urging new Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and new Health Select Committee Dr Liz Craig, both public health experts, consider the flavour debate from a different angle. “MPs spend their lives trying to avoid laws with unintended consequences. Well, if this Government limits access to popular vape flavours for adults, then there’s every chance our smoking rates will start creeping up again. That would be a terrible public health outcome.