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.