Smoking and Budget 2016



Budget 2016 saw the Māori Party score another set of annual excise tax hikes, seeing efforts to further decrease the number of smokers continue to 2020, and the cost of smoking to rise by up to $30 in the same period.

In the weeks since, some have come out in support, or have come out swinging calling this increase racist. Others have called it a cash grab, saying the rises are estimated to increase the tobacco tax take to $1.8 billion, and this is simply a broadside on working people ‘who have few enough pleasures as it is’.

We know that price point changes are arguably the best incentive to not only stop smoking, but incentive not to start in the first place. 2015 stats show smoking prevalence has fallen to 17 percent since 2010, in line with increases to the excise tax hikes initially gained by the Māori Party. Youth smoking in particular has reduced significantly, more than halving to six percent. While smoking incidences among young Māori have not dropped as fast as we would have liked, there is progress, with stats showing Māori are smoking less cigarettes per day than previously.

More importantly, youth, the most price sensitive demographic, have been significantly deterred from smoking, with a 2014 ASH survey showing persistent reductions among regular youth smokers and significant increases in youth who have never smoked. This means we are progressing toward a smoke free generation.

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We are now at the sticky end of business, progressing our goal of Smoke Free 2025. That means we need to keep our support for those of us that are struggling to change our behaviours.

The education campaigns and other policies targeted at youth are working, as evidenced by the rapidly declining uptake in smokers under the age of 15. However we cannot just sit back and wait for the current smokers to die off to eradicate smoking in our society. We know that 85-90 percent of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease cases are caused by smoking, and that this disease affects around 200,000 New Zealanders. We know that Lung Cancer causes around 300 deaths each year among Māori only. With around 1,800 new cases each year, patients are not expected to survive past five years from diagnosis. What many are not as aware of is that respiratory issues are not the only outcomes from smoking while pregnant or raising baby, with smoking being one of the lead causes of Sudden Infant Deaths (SIDs) in New Zealand. These are largely preventable outcomes.

If a child grows up in a smoking household, that behaviour is normalised and leads to them being four times more likely to pick up smoking than a child from a non-smoking home. If not for any other reason, this is why we need to deal with smoking more urgently.

Yet there are numerous, related reasons that bring Māori communities to my office seeking further support to bolster smoke free initiatives. We can treat the symptoms of tobacco addiction through dis-incentivising smoking while promoting healthier alternates to further reduce cravings. Through electronic cigarettes, the method of tobacco ingestion is much less damaging through water-based vapours than carcinogenic, combustion based traditional cigarettes. To wean you off tobacco products, you can buy cartridges with varying levels of nicotine, designed to allow you to adjust to lower nicotine levels. This adds to the already myriad of existing quit smoking packages, including nicotine products and psychological treatment. However these devices are not yet included in the suit of cessation measures and vial of nicotine must be purchased online from overseas, creating a potentially dangerous and unregulated market.

Nonetheless, we need to adopt a holistic approach which would ensure that whānau members who are feeling the pinch of smoking are helped along the cessation path with support services they need around them. This means looking at the causes that led whānau to smoke in the first place.
Most whānau I have talked to tell me three common things, first that their smoking started as a teenage or young adult, two that if they could stop, they would, but they are addicted. However the main reason they communicated to me for why they still smoke or have returned to smoking, is stress.

Stress often goes hand in hand with poverty and that smoking is a supposed reliever. Results from the 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey show that 28 percent of adults in the most deprived areas are smokers. Poverty, often associated with a high prevalence of tobacco use, when combined with its addictive nature, a vicious cycle is created, and further exacerbates the situation. The addiction itself also adds to stress levels.

We have taken a look at how we are exposed to smoking and we have recognised the impact packaging and advertising has, not only through TVs but in our day to day activities.
In 2012, then associate Health Minister and founding Māori Party Co-leader Tariana Turia announced tobacco displays would be banned, making them hidden from plain sight. This on top of her efforts that saw duty-free tobacco limits reduced fall from 200 to 50 cigarettes. To further protect our tamariki we need to ensure areas where they frequent are smoke-free so we’ve continued Whaea Tariana’s advocacy for cars to become smoke free. These efforts culminated in Hon Sam Lotu-Iiga announcing shortly after Budget 2016 that smoking exposure would be further hit with plain packaging to come into force early next year. This legislation first brought by Tariana sat in limbo for two years. Smoking isn’t palm trees and sunny holidays as some packaging suggests.

When I was in Perth earlier this year, smoking was such a rare occurrence when out in public. The local cafe area wasn’t segregated with smokers outside and everyone else shying away from the haze inside. A group of restaurant, bar and café owners had got together and collectively decided they were doing away with smoking outdoors in voluntary smoke free spaces. Wellington City is pitching in as well, announcing its intention to become the first smoke free capital city in the world.

This was proof to me that you don’t need to be reliant solely on regulation and Government to get our nation to meet this goal of Smoke Free 2025. We need to have the grass roots in the charge as well.

Tariana’s efforts were recognised when she received the Luther L Terry Award in March last year. This despite the multitude of obstinate people denying the impact these measures are having, with some even going so far as to call the Māori Party #kuiastate, or calling us out of touch with ordinary Māori for daring to aspire for a healthy, smoke free New Zealand.
This is not an act of discrimination against a group of people. It is enabling our whakapapa through saving lives and addressing some of the leading causes of emphysema, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, sudden unexpected death in infancy and pneumonia.

It’s about whakapapa, and reducing smoking related illnesses that debilitate our peoples’ lives.


  1. Hey Marama

    Paid $78 for a pack of durries thanks to you and your lot

    You should join Hitler and NAZI Party. They were the first ones to try and ban smoking.

    You’d be in good company

    • Marama is happy for the state to spend more than $78 helping you to quit smoking so it is unfair for you to liken her to Hitler. While you obviously don’t agree giving up smoking would improve your life also.

      • Looks like all the wowser-power-tripping Nazis are coming out to play

        “The Nazi anti-tobacco campaign included banning smoking in trams, buses and city trains, promoting health education, limiting cigarette rations in the Wehrmacht, organizing medical lectures for soldiers, and raising the tobacco tax. The National Socialists also imposed restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking in public spaces, and regulated restaurants and coffeehouses.”

        I aint no quitter y’all thieving twats

        • I see smoking has made you smarter. Instead of becoming a “quitter,” you have seen through the lies and figured out that the real cancer is the increasing excises designed to offset the enormous costs to acc in treating smoking related diseases. Congratulations, Einstein, on figuring out what has eluded so many.

          • I’m only a simple man so correct me if my sums are wrong but by my reckoning if I die young then the state saves on pension costs no?

            There are only two legal drugs sanctioned by the state for this working man to enjoy, and already I see the Nazis lining up, calling for one of them to be banned.

            Go on Marama ban it, I know you want to, make Hitler proud

            • Well, there’s a positive attitude, straight from the JFK textbook – “Ask not what your country can do for you [try to educate you about the dangers of smoking and provide a world class health system paid for by the tax base] as to what you can do for your country [saddle the health system with the costs of treating smoking related diseases while you are young, instead of burdening the pension system when you are old.]’

              A real martyr for the cause. Literally. You’re actually suggesting you martyr yourself, so that you can have the right to support an industry. An industry that knowingly includes addictive chemicals that can cause your death, into their products.

              Now I may be a simple man, so correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds an awful lot like Stockholm Syndrome.

                • Not at all, Jamie, I think Richarquis has made some valid points. Bear in mind that what you’re defending doesn’t just affect you but many young people who were too young to make informed decisions when they become addicted.

                  Taking an individualistic approach to what is essentially a product that costs our society millions in wasted health-costs and deaths is not helpful. If you’re involved in the tobacco industry (?) I can understand your loyalty to the industry. Otherwise it is misguided.

                  • Give it a rest bloke. We all know smoking causes cancer, it’s on the bloody packaging.

                    I’ve made some valid points, and all the fascists wanna do is carry on justifying taking the shirt off the working mans back.

                    Cheers for making life that much tougher Marama

                    • Fascists? Are you even aware of the proper meaning of the word? I’ll give you a hint – It doesn’t mean someone who wants you to do something you don’t like. The Greens are as far from fascist as any NZ political party could claim to be. That definition would be most closely mirrored by the actions of National or ACT. Here, look it up.

                      You throw the word around like it’s a ball, completely misappropriating its meaning, and using that misappropriation to attribute those you dislike as Nazis, yet you tell me to give it a rest? Have you any idea how ignorant you are making yourself appear?

                    • Jamie, you’re a confirmed dedicated smoker. We get that. But do you really think the tobacco companies care for your well-being as much as you seem to care for theirs??

                      Kill yourself with smoking if you must.

                      But leave us to stop the next generation from following in your footsteps of sheer stupidity so they don’t die a horrible, cancer-induced death.

                      I’ve seen two of my relations consumed by tobacco-induced cancer, and I’ve no wish to see my children take up this lethal habit.

  2. So, it’s ok for “government” to continue to profit from addiction and the sale of highly addictive and highly lethal drugs, is it ?
    No, it’s not !
    If government was truly serious about New Zealand being Smokefree it would legislate to remove tobacco products completely from retail shelves. Tobacco addicts would then be treated the same as other drug addicts, able to access their fix on prescription from their G.P from Chemists or Addiction Clinics. There would be no black market because there would be no need for one. The focus could then be completely on smoking cessation.
    To keep raising the price of tobacco products is utterly immoral and penalises the addict’s and their families by them having less to spend on the other necessities of life.
    The truth of it is that tobacco kills and maims thousands of New Zealanders every year. To continue to profit from this murderous trade makes the government no better then P manufacturers and dealers. If anything it makes them much much worse.

    • Well said.
      Taxing Maori and poor people who are addicted to a destructive drug is nothing to be proud of.
      Messing around with plain packaging will only perpetuate the suffering. If you’re concerned about health, then just ban it and promote e-cigs.

      Who does the Maori Party represent? Why am I reading a blog that publishes the writing from one of their politicians? Me and my friends have suffered under the government that the Maori Party have propped up – and it’s been worse for poor Maori.

      • I hope that cannabis is legalized soon, and I’d happily pay more for the same quantity (hopefully at a higher quality) to cover both normal taxes and a similar “vice” tax on it as tobacco now has. I don’t support prohibition, and I think giving people the freedom to choose tobacco while taxing the product to pay for its social costs is a perfectly reasonable policy. Keep in mind it’s also perfectly legal to grow your own (organic) tobacco if you don’t want to pay the price of buying it commercially, and a number of people I know have started doing that. Again, I’d be thrilled to have the same freedom to do this as a cannabis smoker that tobacco smokers currently have, and hopefully I soon will.

        • “while taxing the product to pay for its social costs”

          Yes, I agree with this, and it’s important for me that it’s ‘social costs’ and not just ‘economic costs’. ‘Social costs’ include economic costs and other flow on effects (health, violence etc), whereas ‘economic costs’ do not consider wider effects. Unfortunately, the anti-tobacco moralists are irrational and their policies create more social problems than the drug they’re trying to control. Their crusade is driven by emotive personal experiences and these anti-tobacco moralists have no idea of the problems their personal crusade is creating. The Maori Party needs to take a step back and have a good think about what it is doing to the people they claim to represent.

          They should be promoting e-cigs and make them easy to get, if they really want people to stop dying from tobacco use.

          And as you point out, they need to address our racist drug laws. The war on drugs has been lost and these people need to understand that. The war on drugs was always racist, Nixon’s staffers have admitted this. It’s sad that decades on we continue this racism. More cannabis use and less alcohol use would probably help reduce our high levels domestic violence (some research into this is needed).

  3. “You throw the word around like it’s a ball, completely misappropriating its meaning, and using that misappropriation to attribute those you dislike as Nazis. Have you any idea how ignorant you are making yourself appear?”Richarquis

    Lolz. I’m glad I’m not the only one…..


    During the debate, Fox likened Gietz to “Dr Goebbels” – referring to Joseph Goebbels, the head of propaganda during Adolf Hitler’s rule in Nazi Germany.

    Gietz – who is German – said the attack was a first for him.

    “I get called a lot of names,” he said. “What happened to me this morning, that was a first.”

    “Yes, I get called names, but you know what, my experience is it doesn’t help to do a tit for tat. I try to do the voice of reason. I try to put forward my arguments.”


    Jacking the price of durries up to ridiculous levels is straight outta Adolph’s playbook, Zig Marama!!!

    • Jamie, you spout your nonsense about Nazis, Geobbels, and such-like.All it demonstrates is your total lack of original ideas, and having to fall back on hyperbole.

      Here’s a hint, invoking Nazis doesn’t validate your opinions. It just means you’ve watched one too many episode of Hogan’s Heroes.

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