24 Jul 2018

Dairy owners want tobacco price rises to stop

From Checkpoint, 6:17 pm on 24 July 2018

Wellington dairy owners say annual price hikes on cigarettes are making things scary for them and they must be stopped. 

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said yesterday the ongoing price increases are leading to people being "murdered and assaulted in our dairies."

He said today the government was going to look into tobacco pricing, and that the previous government's goal to be smokefree by 2025 was "National Party bulldust". 

"What we are going to do, because we are an intelligent government, is have a review and listen to its findings."

The excise duty on cigarettes has increased by about 10 percent every year since 2010, with average price of a pack of twenty cigarettes now about $30. 

RNZ spoke to dairy owners and workers in Wellington's southern suburbs, and all said they want tobacco price increases to stop. 

Subethini Antanyraj owns Vaasana Traders in Newtown. She said in the past two months there's been four incidents where people have asked for smokes, and then snatched them from her shop counter and bolted. 

"We can't stop selling the cigarettes, if we stop the cigarettes [there's] no point in having a dairy. All the people are coming for the cigarette and some other side things.

"But at the same time we have to look after [ourselves] ... [it's] getting very scary."  

Ms Antanyraj said she complained to the police each time but nothing came from it. She now refuses to work by herself in the evening, and waits until people have paid before handing over cigarettes.

Choc Fizz dairy owner Gagandeep Brar said the price increases were putting people under more financial pressure, and could lead to them making the rash decision to snatch some smokes. 

"Because it's much easier to grab it rather than paying for it."

Mr Brar said people were still going to smoke - despite the prices rises. 

"Because people [are] gonna definitely do dodgy things if they can't afford it."

Jaswinder Singh from Payless Mini Mart said his job feels more dangerous since the prices started going up.  

He and the other dairy owners said the price hikes are too much for people and they needed to stop.