New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia (pictured) has described duty free tobacco as “an anomaly” and strongly hinted she will work towards its total removal in the channel in her quest for a smoke-free Oceania by 2025.
Speaking to the World Congress of Cardiology in Melbourne, Australia yesterday, Turia said that she was “eternally confident” that New Zealand will be the next country in the world to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, adding: “There’s one other thing I would raise which I might suggest could be successful as a regional initiative, and that is the anomaly of duty-free tobacco.
“We have again seen Australia leading the way here by reducing its incoming travellers’ duty-free concession down from 200 cigarettes per person to 50. I am working with my colleague the Minister of Customs to address this issue in New Zealand. It is quite foreseeable that one day soon we could have no duty-free tobacco available for people traveling across Oceania.”
The Australian allowance cut has had a big impact on tobacco sales in duty free and the industry is concerned that, with New Zealand following suit, the trend to reduce – or ban altogether – tobacco allowances will spread.
In support of her actions, Turia says that there are 5,000 deaths a year caused by tobacco in New Zealand with “stubbornly high rates among Māori and Pasifika peoples”.
Three years ago in March 2011 the New Zealand government adopted the goal to be essentially a smoke-free nation by 2025 by reducing smoking prevalence and tobacco availability.
Since 2010 the government has raised significantly the tobacco excise tax and by 2016 it will have more than doubled since 2010. While the final retail price is set by the market, it is expected to rise to over NZ$1 ($0.87) per stick in 2016, a psychological price point.
Total taxes already amount to over NZ$13 per pack of 20—one of the highest rates in the world. The tax level has now reached over 75% of the retail price.
In the country’s 2013 census, 15% of New Zealand adults said they were smokers (463,000 people) – a drop from 598,000 at the last census in 2006. In the same period, smoking prevalence among Māori people dropped from 42.2% to 32.7%.
Like Australia, New Zealand also looks destined to introduce plain packaging. The Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill had its first reading in parliament on 11 February and was referred to the Health Select Committee with just one opposing vote. The committee is now hearing oral submissions before going through final drafting and passage into law.
Asia & Pacific,
Asia & Pacific,