• May 26, 2024

Glover: Kiwi Tobacco Rules Hurt Minorities

 Glover: Kiwi Tobacco Rules Hurt Minorities
Marewa Glover

New Zealand’s new tobacco rules will likely have harsh consequences for indigenous Māori and other minority groups, according to Marewa Glover, founder and director of the Centre of Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty & Smoking.

On Dec. 9, New Zealand announced a raft of new measures to help achieve its Smokefree 2025 goal. The legislation includes a plan to gradually raise the age at which people can purchase tobacco until it covers all age groups. Children now aged 13 and below face a lifetime ban on legally buying tobacco.

The new law will introduce a licensing system for tobacco retailers, reducing the number approved to 5-10 percent of the current estimated outlets. It bans filters and flavors, and seeks to cap cigarette nicotine to levels that are unsatisfying for smokers dependent on the substance.

Writing in Filter, Glover says Māori will be disproportionally affected because they have significantly higher rates of daily smoking (22.3 percent) than New Zealanders of European ancestry (8 percent).

“Illicit markets will scale up to fill the void where there should be a regulated market,” says Glover. “Competition over such markets can bring violence, and Māori, heavily overrepresented among lower-income groups with the highest smoking rates, will bear the brunt. The government response to illicit sales will mean criminalization and arrests, further swelling the grossly disproportionate numbers of Māori who are incarcerated.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s sizable Indian and Asian communities will be hurt economically by the new rules, as they own the majority of the small retail businesses that sell tobacco, according to Glover. “When raised tobacco taxes made cigarettes unaffordable for a large proportion of people who smoked, we saw a surge in aggravated robberies of such stores, in an illustration of ignored unintended consequences.”

Glover argues that, in pursuing smoke-free objectives, a legal reduced-risk product market is more effective than prohibition and punishment.