Opinion: Tobacco tax isn't racist - let's double it

Opinion: Tobacco tax isn't racist - let's double it

What a load of garbage that the tax on tobacco is racist.

Researcher Marewa Glover says the latest rounds of tax hikes are discriminatory because the tax hits Maori the hardest as they are traditionally low income and they too often smoke.

What a pile of 'academic gobbledygook.' Does that also make GST racist? GST at 15 percent on all goods and services hits poor Maori communities the hardest too. So do petrol taxes. So do the taxes on the first $20,000 of income.

Who really supports this 'discrimination and racist' line anyway?

Not even the Maori Party, which to its credit, has been pushing for higher taxes on cigarettes. It also thinks this claim is rubbish.

Glover claims these taxes are not working and smoking rates aren't dropping as a result.

Well they are, even if it has slowed.

Thirty-eight percent of Maori adults smoke. It was 40 percent in 2007. Progress is slow. And we need to do more to target Maori, not less.

It's actually proof we need more and bigger taxes on cigarettes to get more and more people quitting.

It's not like there are no services being offered to help these people to give up.

If the price of cigarettes hurts, maybe they should try giving up. Heard of personal responsibility?

Because I reckon the taxes work. We need to stop people smoking so the next generation gives up. We need to make our country truly smoke-free.

And the good news is the taxes are working for young people - they are giving up in numbers.

Around 16 percent of 15-17 year-olds smoked ten years ago - now it's just 6 percent.

That is success. It means we are stopping the rot.

Around 15 percent of adults smoke now, it was around 25 percent in 1996/1997.

Almost 605,000 New Zealand adults smoke but 700,000 have given up.

Targeting smokers is not racist. It's sensible.

I'm with Dame Tariana Turia - we should become even more aggressive with these taxes - make it a 20 percent increase for 4 years. And then repeat it.

Let's get rid of smoking once and for all. Smoking kills. And more Maori die as a result. And that's way worse than wayward claims of discrimination and racism.