A hundred and 10 years ago, a famous “captain’s call” was issued on the Titanic that our Prime Minister seems to be inspired by.
Those living with crime know it’s real. So do the public who see it, the media who report on it, and the frustrated rank-and-file police attending the aftermath. The only ones who can’t are the yes people in the Wellington bubble. The Government is ploughing into electoral icebergs, like the constitution being upended over Three Waters, and entrepreneurs and professionals getting Immigration NZ’s boot. Meanwhile, professional beggars line the streets. We’ve got big problems.
For crime apologists, we ask this. How did Kiwis get through two World Wars, the Great Depression and even the reforms of the 1980s without smashing up the corner dairy? We’re over the excuses. We need expectations.
For anyone still thinking this Government listens, it doesn’t. We went before the Health Select Committee on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill after a lot of work and got window dressing. Our captain isn’t listening. If dairies are as hooked on cigarette revenue as smokers are on nicotine, what about the Government? Ministers bash us psychologically as much as thugs do physically, yet the Government grabs with both hands the $2 billion we collect on its behalf.
Do you know that tobacco taxes mean a kilogram of tobacco is now worth a third more than a kilogram of silver? Inflation hikes will take tobacco to more than $1600 a kilogram from January with GST adding 15 per cent more. Who pays for this? Ironically, it’s the poorest. Ministry of Health stats show 63 per cent of all daily smokers, 211,000 people, are in the lowest two deciles out of five.
What the Minister of Child Poverty Reduction giveth, the Minister of Finance taketh more.
It doesn’t take a criminologist to figure out the link between precious metal-priced tobacco, addiction and crime.
For our safety and that of our customers, we need to drain what’s driving cigarette-linked ram raids and that’s the demand for cigarettes itself. Prohibition is not the answer as the 178,000 cannabis “weekly or more” smokers demonstrate. Nor is the answer genetically engineered low-nicotine tobacco as a throwback to the non-alcoholic whisky “Claytons” as “the smoke you’re having, when you’re not having a smoke”. Another bright idea from the land of theory is to slash cigarette outlets from 8000 to 600.
Some say dairy owners knew about Smokefree 2025. No. Smokefree was a goal set in 2011 and there are many government goals out there. It only became a law proposal last year and is like Michael Wood suddenly making “Road to Zero” a law.
The biggest winners will be the gangs. Forget tinnie houses, say hello to ciggie houses.
Our solution is what helped 154,000 Kiwis to kick the habit since 2020. Vaping has achieved what taxes, sponsorship bans, patches and plain packaging all didn’t. Replace cigarettes with something users find better and safer. Yes, it contains nicotine but unlike other “substances”, nicotine doesn’t cause disease. What kills is smoke. Smoke combined with taxes makes poverty, desperation and a crime emergency.
The law, unbelievably, stops us suggesting a mint, menthol or tobacco-flavoured vape that most dairies and service stations sell, even when a smoker is asking for cigarettes. The law says smokeless tobacco isn’t a smoking tobacco product but still requires this vape to be locked away from view.
Heaven forbid a smoker sees or hears something better for them. That’s the problem. Officials don’t trust us, despite 94 per cent legal compliance in the two years to December 2021. We had to use the Official Information Act to find that out. Mint, menthol and tobacco-flavoured vapes aren’t remotely popular with youth. We’re not asking for exotic flavours.
Last year, ASH found most youth obtained vapes from friends and family. This year, ASH found we’re past “peak youth vaping” because most outlets abide by the law.
Why can’t 8000 outlets that sell to smokers daily, be given license to actively sell products that are better, safer and cheaper?
Why can’t some of the billions we’ve collected on behalf of the government be put towards crime prevention? All we seem to get is 30 bollards and political fog.
We asked Police Minister Chris Hipkins for more policing to deter criminals and not customers. We need a broken panes approach. You stop major crime by cracking down on the minor. Military camps and all. We also need serious investments in technology around street lighting and CCTV that identifies, tracks and directs police to where the bad eggs are and we need better laws on self-defence.
Here’s another target to consider: zero dairy injuries. That starts by listening, otherwise one of those electoral icebergs may sink this government.
Sunny Kaushal is the chairman of the Dairy and Business Owners Group.