Wednesday, 1 June 2022

New Zealand becomes a target market for tobacco smugglers

A couple of islands in the middle of nowhere with a population of five million people will not be the first choice of tobacco smugglers, but New Zealand has finally made itself a target market.

Data released under the Official Information Act shows the scale of New Zealand's cigarette smuggling problem, after Customs received a $10 million budget boost to fight it.

Cigarettes are being seized at the border in relentless quantities: more than quarter of a million a month, along with an average of 129 kilograms of loose tobacco. 

Customs is bracing for the problem to increase as smoking laws get stricter - and promising to put the heat on the people responsible.

The first three months of this year saw more than 800,000 individual cigarettes confiscated by Customs officers, which was 60 percent more than the same three months in 2021.

They also seized a whopping 390 kilograms of loose tobacco.

Officers had observed increasingly bold smuggling techniques. 

I bet they have. Way to go, New Zealand. You've copied Australian tobacco control policies and have got yourself an Australian-style black market.

As the cost of legally purchased cigarettes creeps up - to a current average of $38 a packet - Hart said illicit trade was becoming more and more lucrative.

$38 is nearly £20, folks. When the government is shafting consumers with taxes like that, buying from the black market isn't just inevitable, it's almost a moral obligation.

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