The growing and violent tobacco black market

The Herald reports:

Police need to record the number of robberies in which tobacco is taken, the Act Party says.

The call comes after a Christchurch dairy was on the weekend robbed for the eighth time in seven months.

Three people entered the Night ‘n Day in Woolston about 2.30am on Sunday. One of two staff members was pinned down with a handgun held against her head.

No one was injured, with the offenders taking cash and cigarettes.

In October Police said the black market for tobacco was fuelling dairy robberies, and there have been similar concerns in other areas of the country.

This is a good lesson in unforeseen consequences. There is little doubt that increasing the excise tax on tobacco has been an effective way to reduce smoking rates. But there comes a level at which the tax levels become so high, that people are incentivised to buy on the black market. We saw this with alcohol prohibition.

So what we have are more and more robberies of dairies, to steal cigarettes. And more and more people buying their cigarettes through the black market, rather than legally.

Act leader David Seymour said today he had recently requested from Police information on the number of tobacco-related burglaries.

That request was declined, with police informing Seymour that crime statistics did not distinguish whether tobacco products were taken in burglaries or robberies.

“Tobacco taxes have more than doubled in the past five years and there are, sometimes violent, robberies of the now $300 bricks of cigarettes happening every other day.

“It is extraordinary that the police are not recording whether tobacco was a factor in a robbery.”

The Police database should be able to do this.

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