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Tobacco tax is discrimination: AACS

cigarettes, tobaccoA Labor proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes to pay for Gonski school reforms has been lampooned by the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS).

Jeff Rogut, CEO, AACS, said Labor’s consideration of imposing another round of three 12.5 per cent hikes on cigarettes will further entrench notions of isolation and demonisation within the smoking community, who already pay a substantial amount of tax.

“There is no greater example in the current day and age of lazy, shallow and hypocritical policy than taxing smokers to pay for whatever politicians think will garner votes,” said Rogut.

“No longer even masking the hypocrisy of their actions, some politicians turn their ire blindly towards smokers, not for a moment considering that these adults already pay more than their fair share of tax.”

Rogut also alluded to the emerging illicit tobacco market in denouncing Labor’s plans.

“The amount of illegal tobacco that is being sold and consumed in this country has exploded since plain packaging was introduced and as the endless series of tax hikes take a compound effect.

“Relentless tax increases play directly into criminals’ hands. Meanwhile adult consumers who choose to smoke are demonised more and more. And retailers who responsibly sell a legal product bear the financial brunt of lost sales. It is short-sighted policy that must be resisted,” Rogut said.

This sentiment was shared by Liberal Democrat, David Leyonhjelm, who said the optimum level of tax was like plucking a goose to take the maximum number of feathers with the least hissing.

“We are already at the stage where the hissing is pretty substantial,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Senator Leyonhjelm said he couldn’t see a connection between smoking and education, but independent senator, Nick Xenophon, was more open to the idea.

“If you can slug the tobacco industry and a consequence of that is that it can help fund some worthy programs such as education then I’m all for it,” he said.

Deputy Labor leader, Tanya Plibersek, said the idea shouldn’t be ruled out.

“I think it is important to look at all options and I was the health minister when we last raised the cigarette excise,” she told reporters.

More expensive cigarettes means fewer young people, in particular, smoking, she said.

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