MP Casey Costello to freeze excise tax on tobacco

MP Casey Costello to freeze excise tax on tobacco

Associate Health Minister Casey Costello is facing criticism from anti-smoking groups and politicians due to RNZ’s disclosure that she might pause the tobacco tax for three years.

Currently, the tobacco excise is annually adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). RNZ has revealed that Costello is considering a three-year freeze on CPI-related excise increases for smoked tobacco.

However, in an RNZ interview, Costello refuted the claim that she had considered this.

The Health Coalition Aotearoa has urged Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to dismiss Minister Costello, stating that she has lost all credibility as an Associate Minister of Health. “She seems to be acting more like a Minister for the Tobacco Industry than a health advocate,” said HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn.

Costello, who was recently the chair of the Taxpayers Union funded by the Tobacco industry and a member of the Atlas Network, an international think tank funded by major petroleum companies, is being asked to step down to restore credibility to the portfolio.

Sue Taylor, co-chair of the HCA Smokefree Expert Advisory Group, who has worked in tobacco control for over two decades, said that annual tax increases have consistently led to a decrease in smoking. “Families often tell me that they quit smoking because it became too costly,” she said.

Taylor argued that halting annual inflation increases on cigarettes would benefit the Tobacco Industry and lead to more smoking-related deaths. “Most families with a smoker would rather pay their bills than buy tobacco, so stopping these increases will likely encourage people to continue smoking,” she added.

Leitu Tufuga, another co-chair of the HCA Smokefree Expert Advisory Group, expressed her outrage, saying, “It’s unacceptable that Māori lives are continually being sacrificed for the profits of the Tobacco Industry.”