David Seymour says National, Labour will be responsible if dairy owners die

ACT leader David Seymour has called out the Government's tobacco taxes, labelling them "blood money" - and warning they will lead to someone dying.

Mr Seymour says tax increases on tobacco have made cigarettes a target for thieves, and dairy owners are paying the price.

"In 2016, the National Government put in place a punitive series of four annual tobacco tax increases. These tax increases are driving violent crimes," says ACT Leader David Seymour.

"After two violent dairy robberies in the past week, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed, and both Labour and National will be responsible."

On Sunday, more than 50 small business owners gathered in Hamilton to find a solution.

The Government received a total of $1.7 billion in duty on tobacco sales in 2016 from the big three producers - British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris.

But passing the increased cost on to consumers has led to an "epidemic of violent robberies", Mr Seymour says. Violent dairy robberies across the country seem to happen with alarming regularity.

What the thieves manage to get away with varies, but the main target is cigarettes. The attacks have left shopkeepers injured and frightened, with some considering arming themselves to defend their stores.

Last year, former Police Minister Paula Bennett announced $1.8 million will be made available for dairies, superettes and small businesses to apply for co-funding for "robbery prevention".

But Mr Seymour says this isn't enough.

"The $1.7 billion per year in tobacco tax revenue collected by the Government each year is blood money, obtained by putting people's lives at risk," Mr Seymour warns.

"Just $1.8 million of that revenue, or 0.1 percent, is directed to protecting dairy owners at risk of being robbed, assaulted, or even murdered."

Mr Seymour says he wants 10 percent of tobacco taxes to go towards protecting vulnerable business owners.

In 2017, Crime Prevention Group spokesman Sunny Kaushal said security systems are prohibitively expensive to buy and install for dairies.

He said a fog machine with an automatic alarm can cost $5000, while single pack cigarette dispensers can cost around $20,000.


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