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Roman Travers: It seems the Associate Health Minister has lost the plot

Author
Roman Travers,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jan 2024, 7:32am
Photo / 123rf
Photo / 123rf

Roman Travers: It seems the Associate Health Minister has lost the plot

Author
Roman Travers,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jan 2024, 7:32am

For the record, New Zealand doesn’t have a minister for the tobacco industry. Or does it? 

The Associate Health Minister, Casey Costello is being labelled by some as the Minister for the Tobacco Industry, based on a proposal that’s yet to be confirmed by Casey Costello, that she wants to see a 3-year freeze on the tobacco tax. 

What this means is that cigarettes would be insulated from the full impact of inflation under a proposal from the New Zealand First Associate Health Minister. 

At the moment, tobacco excise is increased each year in line with the Consumer Price Index. Apart from gathering a swag of tax, it’s a way to encourage smokers to give up. 

Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chairperson, Boyd Swinburn has come out all gun’s firing and smoking, saying that Casey Costello needs to be stripped of her duties and that she’s lost all credibility as an Associate Minister of Health. 

After all the work done over the decades to encourage smokers to give up the darts, after all the hard work by previous governments and former iterations of The Ministry of Health, why on earth would you give smokers a tax cut now? 

This kind of idiotic, retrospective policy change, ties in quite nicely with this Governments position on ‘Smoke Free New Zealand’ by 2025. It’s all too hard, so why bother? 

Governments have acknowledged that smoking is an important aspect of tax gathering. So where would this government look to recoup the loss on this proposed, preposterous policy? 

The Director of Action on Smoking and Health, Ben Youden, also says that this proposal simply doesn’t make much sense. 

There’s a problem here with addiction, I realise that; but it seems that under this proposal, we’re just aiding and abetting those on the fags, to keep incinerating precious money that’d be better spent elsewhere. 

Smoking related experts say that prices on tobacco need to walk a fine line between deterring smokers and not financially hindering those addicted. Surely Casey Costello can see that all this does is incentivise more smokers to smoke more, for longer. 

Costello has also proposed removing the excise tax from smokeless tobacco products, where the tobacco is heated to a vapour rather than burned. 

It would appear to me that The Associate Health Minister has completely lost the plot. 

If this policy goes ahead there’ll be more outrage from those healthcare professionals who deal with smoking related diseases each and every day. What a kick in the toolbox for all of them. What possible motivation could an Associate Health Minister have for such mindless proposal? 

I also wonder just how many focus groups Casey Costello held with healthcare professions around the county to get their input on this proposal? I can almost certainly guarantee that the answer to that – will be absolutely none. 

No one in their right mind would ever suggest that effectively encouraging more New Zealander’s to continue smoking, is ever going to be a good idea. 

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