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Published: 21 August 2014

Authors: Cobiac, L., Ikeda, T., Nghiem, N., Blakely, T., & Wilson, N.

Objective We examine the potential role for taxation in the tobacco endgame in New Zealand, where the goal is to become ‘smokefree’ (less than 5% smoking prevalence) by 2025.
Design Modelling study using a dynamic population model.
Setting and participants New Zealand, Maori and non-Maori men and women.
Interventions Annual increases in tobacco excise tax of 5%, 10%, 15% and 20% (with 10% reflecting the annual increase recently legislated by the New Zealand Government to 2016).
Results With a continued commitment to annual 10% increases in tobacco excise tax, in addition to on-going Quitline and cessation support, New Zealand’s smoking prevalence is projected to fall from 15.1% in 2013 to 8.7% (95% uncertainty interval 8.6% to 8.9%) by 2025. This is compared to 9.9% without any further tax rises. With annual tax increases of 20%, the prevalence is projected to fall to 7.6% (7.5% to 7.7%) by 2025.
The potential reductions in smoking prevalence are substantial for both Maori and non-Maori populations, although annual tax increases as high as 20% will still only see Maori smoking prevalence in 2025 approaching the non-Maori smoking levels for 2013. Scenario analyses did not suggest that growth of the illicit tobacco market would substantively undermine the impact of tobacco tax rises. Nevertheless, unknown factors such as the gradual denormalisation of smoking and changes to the ‘nicotine market’ may influence sensitivity to changes in tobacco prices in the future.