Winston Peters has again lashed out at the “hideous hypocrisy” of holding a cannabis referendum alongside a goal of being smoke-free by 2025, saying a packet of cigarettes shouldn’t cost more than $20.
The Deputy Prime Minister last week said he didn’t know how long New Zealanders could put up with “such hypocrisy”.
Asked by a Magic Talk listener on Wednesday if he’d do anything about taxation on tobacco, Peters doubled down on the comments he made last week. He said, “the objective is meant to be one pathway and the result is something else”.
“People, mainly poor people, and smokers are just being screwed – totally screwed – do I intend to do something about it? Yes, I do.”
The New Zealand First leader asserted no packet of cigarettes should cost more than $20.
“Why? Right now about 86 percent of it is taxation – it’s daylight robbery on behalf of successive Governments who say their target is smoke-free by 2025 while the billings they’re collecting tell you that they have no genuine plan,” he told Magic Talk host Peter Williams.
“The hideous hypocrisy knows no bounds – so you want to know my policy? It wasn’t my intention to tell you but I’m telling you right here, right now, $20 should be the maximum for any packet of cigarettes.”
Census data from 2018 shows the proportion of regular cigarette smokers aged 15 years and over decreased to 13.2 percent, down from 15.1 percent in 2013.
“The Government is determined to reduce the horrendous burden of death and disease caused by smoking,” the Ministry of Health says on its website. “The Government has set a long-term goal of reducing smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels, thereby making New Zealand essentially a smoke free nation by 2025.”
Smokefree 2025 will be achieved if children are protected from exposure to tobacco marketing, reducing its supply and demand, and providing support for quitting, the Government says. Plain brown and green-coloured tobacco packaging were introduced for cigarette packets in New Zealand in 2018.
Peters said his policy wasn’t an “advertisement” for smoking cigarettes, more so for alternatives.
“The Government can take its cut somewhere else – they are just screwing, in the main, poor people who work, sometimes, two or three jobs and the only pleasure they have is that.
“This is not an advertisement for cigarette smoking – it’s an advertisement for alternative cigarette smoking. All these new vaping things that are coming out of countries like Japan – are seriously reducing tobacco smoking around the world.”
He said those products should also be tax-free.
“If we are genuine about getting those people off tobacco and cigarettes, the alternatives are far much safer and, here’s the real point; the plan and the strategy that successive Governments have put together – is not working.”
The Government announced moves to regulate vaping earlier this year, with sponsorship and marketing of vape products to be outlawed from November.
New Zealand has lifted the excise tax on tobacco every year since 2010, raising the cost of cigarettes from about $11 for a pack of 20 to $33 by January 2020. It was put in place in an attempt to deter people from smoking and achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal.