According to a report by the New Zealand Herald on January 25, New Zealand Deputy Minister of Health Casey Costello proposed a series of innovative ideas on tobacco control, which triggered widespread controversy. One proposal is to freeze cigarette taxes to avoid the full impact of inflation.
Currently, tobacco excise taxes are adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and Costello is putting forward a proposal to freeze tobacco-related CPI increases for three years.
However, when asked about the proposal in an interview with Costello, she said she had not given it any thought. "I didn't have any discussions about it at all. It was not something I specifically sought advice on," she said.
Although Costello said in an interview that she was not seeking any advice on the issue, the Department of Health report showed a different story. The report asked Costello: "Would you like to receive advice in January 2024 on freezing tobacco-related excise taxes for three years." The "yes" option on this report is circled and has been reviewed by Costello in December 2023. Signed and confirmed on the 20th.
Beyond that, while Costello didn't confirm she was proposing a freeze on sales tax increases, she expressed an openness to it.
“This is very costly to those in our society who can least afford it because they are dependent on nicotine and we continue to punish them,” she said. She expressed some sympathy for the freeze because What we're dealing with now is a small group that's under tremendous economic pressure.
However, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago Janet Hoek believes this will put tobacco products in a favorable position compared to other consumer products. "Such a freeze would effectively insulate tobacco from the effects of inflation," she said. Hawke also noted that recently we've seen a typical cigarette price increase of about $2 due to increases in CPI, which could be enough to keep smokers from buying tobacco. Consider quitting smoking.
In addition, the New Zealand government has new plans to reform smoking and e-cigarette laws, such as banning the sale of tobacco among people born on or after January 1, 2009, to create a smoke-free new generation.
On this basis, Costello plans to increase penalties for selling e-cigarettes to minors. Currently, the fine for selling tobacco to a minor is $10,000 and $5,000 in other cases. Although no e-cigarette sellers have been prosecuted for selling to minors, Costello is understood to be proposing to increase the maximum fine for selling e-cigarettes to minors to $30,000.