A local tobacco control expert has slammed the country’s hefty tobacco tax.
It comes after 19-year-old Jerome Heke was sentenced to four years prison for stealing just four packets of cigarettes.
The annual EY report last year found that, since January 2010, the Government has increased tobacco excise by at least CPI plus 10 per cent each year.
The excise is currently 82.66 cents a cigarette.
Dr Marewa Glover of the Centre of Research Excellence told Kerre McIvor that this sentence is really excessive, and the robberies only occur because of the high cigarette cost.
"We've actually made this happen. Banging up the price caused a rise in robberies around the country."
She says that the legal system should take this high demand into account when sentencing people.
Dr Glower says that she used to support the tax increases, but the evidence over time has shown it does not work.
"45 per cent of Maori women between 18 and 24 smoke now, and that isn't reducing. There are vulnerable groups that are not stopping but are being affected as it is increasing."
The current series of tax increases are scheduled to end in 2020.
The report found that while the proportion of the adult population using tobacco had declined from 18.3 per cent in 2006/7 to 13.8 per cent in 2016/17, the gap in smoking rates for Māori and Pasifika remained significant – 2.7 times higher for Māori than non-Maori for example.
The impact of excise increases on the spending habits of income households was disturbing, with fewer than half (47 per cent) of all smoking households responding to price rises by buying less tobacco.