It is not often crime can be truly said to be of the Government's own making, but that can be said of robberies of shops stocking cigarettes.
Rising tax on tobacco to discourage smoking has reached a level at which cigarettes have become, according to the Association of Convenience Stores, "like stocking gold".
Hardly a week passes in which a dairy is not attacked for little more than cash and cigarettes.
The heists are happening in daylight and frequently shop owners are being battered in the attempt to save their stock. Its wholesale cost is high with the excise included and the retail margin is low.
The robberies are suspected to be feeding a black market that is on-selling the cigarettes to less scrupulous shop owners at less than the wholesale, tax-inclusive price.
This is what is liable to happen when markets are seriously distorted no matter how worthy the purpose of the regulation or taxation.
To say so is not to condone the criminal response but those who promote regulations and taxation as solutions to a social problem should always keep in mind the risk that they could create new problems, possibly worse than the problem they are trying to cure.
Smoking is a danger to health but so is armed robbery.
After a spate of attacks that put shop owners in hospital, cigarette retailers have appealed for help, holding public meetings, a protest march and bringing a petition to Parliament.
Yesterday the Government responded with a $1.5 million fund to provide their shops with more security devices.
Window locks, door bolts and better lighting might help, though only when the shops are closed. Armed hold-ups during trading hours will have to be met with more subtle measures.
Cigarette cabinets may need to be more secure and have delayed opening devices, which could also require some means of identifying the "customer" before they can be opened. Or the delaying device could also trigger an alarm of some sort.
These would seem excessive precautions if cigarettes were just another consumer item, but as the Association of Convenience Stores' chief executive, Dave Hooker, has said, stocking cigarettes is "like stocking gold".
He also said, "As the excise on tobacco goes up every year, there is a point when you say, 'When is enough, enough?'" It is a question the Government should be asking.
No doubt annual tax increases have played a part in reducing the number of smokers though the habit remains rife in Maori and Pacific communities.
The Maori Party has pressed hardest for the tax hikes by the present Government and it is unlikely to let up.
The tax is set to rise by 10 per cent a year for next three years, bringing the price of a pack to $30 by 2020.
It is time to ask whether this is really wise? If smoking has declined to the point that a hard core of smokers has continued despite the rising price, what reason is there to suppose further rises will deter them.
Each increase might merely divert more of their limited income from their family's needs. We may have reached the point at which taxation is doing more harm than good.