New research shows increasing the price of tobacco in New Zealand is working – not just to improve health, but also to reduce inequality.
While the true benefits of the yearly 10 percent tax increases won't peak for decades, research from the University of Otago shows they are already reducing health costs.
Lead researcher professor Tony Blakely says it's also bridging gaps between Maori and non-Maori.
"It reduces inequality, the difference in mortality rates between Maori and non-Maori, by perhaps 2 or 3 percent into the future."
But Prof Blakely says while young smokers are most responsive to tax increases due to their limited disposable income, they won't benefit from reduced rates of tobacco-related diseases for a long time.
"These young people would not reap the maximum benefits from reduced rates of tobacco-related diseases for many decades to come, due to the long delay between taking up smoking and the incidence of tobacco-related disease in individuals."
Researchers also found that in 2011, when the tax was introduced, smoking prevalence was 35 percent for Maori and 14 percent for non-Maori.