Last year, Māori spent $1 billion on tobacco, which equates to $723 million in tobacco taxes. But how does that money get Māori to stop smoking? Dr Marewa Glover has spent more than 25 years on efforts to reduce smoking harm among Māori and says it's time to stop hiking the tax on tobacco. She's questioning why the government keeps raising it.
"The increase is just incredible. For Māori women, for example, just take 24-year-olds, they are already paying $12 million. That's just the tax on tobacco," says Dr Glover. "I would have really liked to see the government pull back on that tax. Just don't do it next year."
More than 33% of Māori smoke, compared to 14% of the rest of the population she says.
"And if the tax increase goes ahead, the government is going to take another $1 million out of that very vulnerable group. They are our mums, they are already struggling a lot of them. Increasing criminalisation, fining, bashing and shaming smokers in the media doesn't work," she says.
"The old model doesn't work anymore. There are new technologies and greater harm reducing products that I'd really like to see our people move to right away," she says.
Tobacco is taxed, but new technologies that don't have tobacco are not. Those products will remain cheaper unless the government changes its approach to taxing tobacco.