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HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

The cost of tobacco has gone up and along with it so has the risk to those selling the products.

Dairy owners are saying the price hike is not going to stop people smoking and is only going to encourage more crime.

One Masterton dairy was robbed three times last year – on one occasion the offender was armed with a hammer and on another they were wielding a screwdriver.

“The first two times the tobacco cabinet was emptied, the third time they smashed the ice cream chiller,” the shop owner said.

“They couldn’t get the tobacco because it was locked away.

“With tax going up, risk is going up.”

He said he would love to stop selling cigarettes but if he did, he would go out of business.

“We have to bring customers in. If I don’t sell it, we have to close the shop.”

Another dairy owner said he had been robbed twice in two years.

“They only come for cigarettes. They don’t even open the till.

“They jump straight to the cigarette cabinet and then they’re gone.”

It was clear that raising tax was not the answer to getting people to quit, he said.

Every time tobacco prices went up, he saw the same cycle play out.

After a few weeks of keeping a low-profile attempting to boot the habit, tobacco smokers were back in his shop buying the cheapest brand.

He said selling tobacco posed much risk to a small-business but he didn’t have a choice.

About 85 per cent of sales were tobacco products, with items like milk, bread and lollies making up the balance.

“My shop has been robbed, but I want to run my business, I want to feed my family, I need to feed myself.

“I need to sell cigarettes, if I don’t, I’ll need to close my shop.”

Sergeant Ian Osland said Wairarapa Police had, over the past 18 months been making a concerted effort to educate dairy and service station owners in crime prevention measures.

He said as tobacco items became more expensive, it was inevitable that some people would try and get products via non-reputable sources.

Smokers motivated to quit

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Wairarapa residents who have resolved to quit smoking may have found the cigarette tax hike an added incentive, but for many families in the community it will mean going without.

Since January 2010, each year the Government has increased tobacco excise by an additional 10 per cent of the consumer price index with the current series of tax increases scheduled to end in 2020.

The average cost for a 25-pack of cigarettes is now around $28, but prices can go as high as $40.

Quitline spokesman Calvin Cochran said the increased cost of cigarettes had seen a 30 per cent increase in activity this year compared with the start of 2018.

“It’s definitely a factor. The cost is quite a good motivator and this time of year people are making other resolutions.”

Cochran said a government report had shown the tobacco excise levy had contributed to a decrease in smoking.

“The average smoker is consuming far less cigarettes than they used to.”

Over the past 10 years the smoking rate has decreased from 20 per cent in 2007 to just under 15 per cent in 2017.

Smoking rates for Maori and Pasifika also decreased during that period, but the most significant reduction had been in young people dropping from 35,000 to 12,000.

But the report also found a higher proportion of lower income households bought tobacco than high-income households.

They were also most likely to go without, or spend less on food and groceries, utilities and other essentials to buy tobacco.

Whairoa spokeswomn Jane Ross said the new year was a busy time and they tried to provide extra support for families with smokers.

“We are receiving referrals on a daily basis from people who are highly motivated.”

She said the increased cost did impact those families, with reports of people spending hundreds of dollars on cigarettes each week.

“While we’re concerned about the immediate impact on the families ultimately, we want to see them live smokefree lives. We really want to offer our support.”

Wairarapa DHB Smokefree co-ordinator Linda Spence agreed.

“There’s no doubt [the increased cost] will still impact the families of people who smoke.”

She said she was still optimistic the Government could achieve its smokefree goal by 2025 and that the initiative had still made a difference.

“Whatever we’re doing, more and more people are quitting. The numbers are going down.

“It’s still better than what it was.”

She said it was hard for people to quit on their own and advised them to get in touch with Quitline.

For people looking to quit, Cochran suggested using vaping to help reduce nicotine consumption.