Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan, an advisor for the National Tobacco Advocacy Service, says the tobacco industry is using scare tactics by playing on fears about illicit trading in home-grown tobacco.

"When the tobacco industry makes exaggerated claims about illicit tobacco trade they are attempting to scare decision-makers and communities," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"But we need to ask ourselves why the industry is so concerned about this particular issue, yet they are not making a big deal about the more substantial problem of legal tobacco use which kills 5000 New Zealander's a year?"

The illicit tobacco trade is a relatively minor problem in New Zealand, with the Ministry of Health recently estimating it to be at about 2-4 per cent of the tobacco market.

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Tobacco Advocacy Service general manager Zoe Hawke said that during the plain packaging legal challenge in Australia the tobacco industry made illicit tobacco trade claims as part of its campaign against the legislation. But research showed no change in availability of illicit tobacco after plain packaging was introduced.

Case studies around the world during the past decade show that in the highly unlikely scenario of the illicit home-grown tobacco trade becoming significant, there were already effective strategies in place that would easily, and cheaply lead to positive results.