A proposal to freeze tobacco excise taxes for three years has sparked a backlash in New Zealand, Radio New Zealand reports.
Deputy Health Minister Casey Costello has come under fierce political fire after suggesting a temporary halt to tobacco tax increases, taking into account the socio-economic background of smokers. Smokers tend to have lower wages than the average person.
Australian Health Alliance co-chairman Boyd Swinburne said the move would make tobacco products more accessible.
"Costello's proposal to freeze inflation-adjusted excise taxes for three years essentially means tobacco will become relatively cheaper over the next three years because it won't keep pace with other inflation," he said.
Swinburne called on British Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to take action.
“Given that all of Costello’s proposed policies support the tobacco industry’s stance, the Health Alliance is calling for her to be removed from her position as Deputy Minister of Health.”
Ben Youden, director of Action Against Smoking and Health, said Costello's proposal didn't make much sense.
"Given the Finance Minister said last year that tobacco tax was an important revenue source, it seems odd that a freeze on excise duty would be on the agenda."
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand chief executive Letitia Harding called Costello's proposal "outrageous", adding it amounted to another victory for the tobacco industry.
The current coalition government has been criticized for its tobacco-friendly policies. One of the first actions after coming to power in late 2023 will be to repeal the country's controversial generational tobacco ban.