I predicted this would happen

A couple of years back I attended a conference in Singapore on Tobacco Control and learned some interesting things.

One was that there is a point at which taxation levels on tobacco reaches a level where there is a significant upside for criminals to enter the market and start selling illicit tobacco.

I gave evidence to a select committee, where one tobacco control activist sat behind me as I gave evidence and called me a fat bastard and a racist and every other name under the sun, and it was the same select committee where Hone Harawira invited me to step outside so he could smack my head in.

The evidence that I was giving was about the levels of taxation and funding to anti-tobacco groups and how it was ineffective and reaching the point that criminals would find selling tobacco more lucrative than selling cannabis. At one point I offered to have a 40-foot container delivered to the select committee, full of illicit tobacco products if only they would guarantee the payment for the goods. It is that easy to get hold if.

With the most recent tax increased implemented by this dopey government what I predicted has come to pass. Criminals are now distributing illicit tobacco and other criminals are raiding stores to get their hands on the product.

A lucrative black market for cigarettes is fuelling an increase in armed robberies, with criminals targeting dairies and stealing tobacco products to order.  

Some dairy owners are toying with the idea of pulling cigarettes from their shelves, but the decision is not an easy one with tobacco products making up a large amount of their business.

In the last seven weeks, robbers have targeted at least 17 Christchurch businesses, including dairies, pubs and bakeries. That compares to 12 in the first five months of the year.

The offenders have generally been males, aged in their mid to late teens. They commonly wore disguises and carried weapons, including guns, hammers, knives and axes.

Arrests have been made in several cases, but many remain unsolved.

The majority of businesses targeted recently have been dairies. Cigarettes were often taken.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Ford said he believed many of the robbers were stealing to order rather than for personal use.

“There appears to be a strong black market for tobacco. It is a very valuable commodity. They [the robbers] are taking as much as they can.”

So, well done Sam Lotu Iiga, this is on your watch.

Anyone with half a brain who did their own research instead of listening to health troughers looking for loads more loot to do more studies would have known this would happen. Plain packaging will only make the problem worse.


– Fairfax

  • Chris Bell

    Yep – short-sighted indeed. I have to ask, what has Sam Lotu-Inga got to show for his term as an MP? – it seems that everything he touches turns to crap. I was at a public meeting about crime in his electorate a while back and was Sam there? – no, despite him being in Auckland at the time and being invited. And then when there is an election coming I see Sam turn up in my letterbox all the time – my recycling bin does big business at those times.

  • Wayne Hodge

    This is why although I do not like the idea personally, I support making cannabis available through authorised and monitored outlets. This would go a long way to reducing the cash flow for many criminals; furthermore with appropriately designed regulation it could reduce the social issues caused by excessive use.

  • Wayne Hodge

    High taxation and/or prohibition tend to lead to crime. However, our pollies, as ever, fail to learn the lessons of history and the troughers continue to pose and obfuscate.

  • XCIA

    I can only wonder at what level the criminal activity would at if we did not have a climate where tobacco has the ability to grow like a weed.

  • John

    I think the other part to this is that there is less things a criminal can steal to make money from. Cigarettes are one of the few products that would keep there value.

    I did some sums following that big P haul up in Northland, given that was just one supplier, while hard to believe, volumes point to P being used regularly by around 4 % of the population, not the lower figure given in official figures. A large percentage of those people will do whatever it takes to pay for their drugs while some will opt for white collar crime and some will just spend all their income. It is no surprise that anything of value is being targeted. This crime is viable, I am starting to wonder what other crimes such as shake downs and racketeering haven’t come on the radar yet.

  • Gerrit

    Worth a read


    Nearly 15% of tobacco smoked in Australia is illicit and of dubious quality.

    Compounding health problems.

  • JC

    I was on this a year or so back when I realised that a pack a day habit would effectively wipe out the basic benefit for a beneficiary and that only the benefit add ons for the likes of kids would be available for food and the rent.

    Its all well and good to say these people shouldn’t smoke but the reality is that they do and its the taxpayer who has to pick up the pieces.

    Smoking for a beneficiary can be as financially catastrophic as a gambling, drug or alcohol addiction.. and its inflicted by a rapacious tax. Way to go, Government!


  • cows4me

    The whole taxation on cigs is a big have. How many bludgers get their incomes because the price of tobacco is so high. From the crims to the special interest groups that rely on tax monies to promote their zealot lifestyles and the very politicians themselves, who are addicted to taxation like heroin it’s all about the money. Many of these clowns scream public health when comes to taxation but know full well it’s all about what ends up in their pockets.

  • Andy111A

    The local police shared at our business owners association last week about this problem. They stated that all the petrol stations and dairys getting ripped off and done by teens and the cigs are sold for $5 a packet in Kaikohe.
    They have organised a simulated armed holdup at the local petrol station so we can learn how to deal with it and what to look for in that situation.

  • Aucky

    It was always going to happen once the profit margins were there to justify a black market. Robbing dairy owners is small fry and we can look forward to the hijacking of trucks carrying tobacco products and warehouses containing the stuff. Large scale smuggling of fake brands from China by the container-load is also on the cards.

    It will only get worse, but tell me what is the answer. There’s no point in shooting the messenger, Sam Lotu-Iiga.

  • waldopepper

    i have a friend smokes a pack a day. he earns $100,000 a year but at just under $11,000 a year on cigarettes hes paying 10% of his income to shorten his life and smell like an ashtray. most smokers would be pack a day im guessing. how the poor do it is beyond me.

    • Aucky

      Anyone reliant on a benefit with a nicotine habit and smoking a pack a day is spending 50% of their income on the stuff so something has to give. We see the results daily by way of the burglary stats, underfed kids, begging & unpaid rent.

  • JLS

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Ditch the punitive tax and public health care, reduce income tax by equivalent to the savings. Then we do what we like, tobacco crime disappears, most of us get health insurance from our preferred provider, and doubtless we’d end up with more money in our pockets and be more healthy. Oh, and end welfare by the way. Single motherhood plummets, crime goes down, self esteem through employment and independence goes up, outcomes improve. In a generation it would be a different country. Of course the same model could apply to education. Those who didn’t like it could emigrate to some other socialist country to be miserable.

  • Wheninrome

    There is a very heartless part of me that doesn’t care if someone smokes themselves to death. As long as I do not have to be anyshere near their stinky bodies or clothes (I include Winnie Peters in the smelly people). Yes there is increased healthcare costs, put the people at the bottom the list for surgery. Make it a choice, smoke no healthcare, don’t smoke get healthcare. Forget tax doesn’t work. Smokefree areas seems to be working, always amusing to see the sick person wheeled off the hospital grounds for their ciggy, stupid is as stupid does.
    It is an incredibly dirty habit and not necessary.

  • Superman

    Shades of Prohibition in America. Just ban cigarettes altogether and watch the black market and the associated crime skyrocket.