Editorial: Let's stub out crims who rob for cigs

With the price of cigarettes set to skyrocket, maybe it's time we had a good look at how they are sold.

In recent weeks, there have been a series of aggravated robberies in Rotorua and Tokoroa of dairies and liquor stores. Among the hot items being demanded by the weapon-wielding offenders are cigarettes.

The filthy habit is a costly one. This year, the Government announced tobacco excise taxes would rise by 10 per cent per year for the next four years.

That will lift the average price of a packet of 20 from about $14 now, to $15.40 next year and $20.50 in 2016.

Let's face it, criminals like their smokes and will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on them (this clearly doesn't include getting themselves a job and paying for them like most other smokers).

A Rotorua man faces a lengthy stint behind bars for robbing two men with a filleting knife for their cellphones, a packet of tobacco, cigarette papers, filters and a lighter.

Tama Turei Brown has been given a final warning under the three strikes legislation - which means if he commits another violent offence he will serve the maximum sentence. For aggravated robbery, that's 14 years. Brown is thought to be one of the first in Rotorua to be given the final warning under the legislation that came into force in June 2010.

I couldn't care less if a violent offender faces serious charges for stealing cigarettes. It's great to see the law working.

What I do care about is the poor people selling them. The cancer sticks are hot commodity for crims. Therefore, selling them is dangerous. Items such as electronics, jewellery and sunglasses are in locked cabinets - it's time cigarettes were too.

Yes, I realise it would be a nuisance. Maybe this can be solved with some kind of vending machine operated by retailers.

Some old hands in the local store trade probably aren't too fazed about the danger of selling cigarettes, but working in dairies and service stations is often a first job for the young and vulnerable.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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