John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Price rise incentive to quit

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Kezz Heke of Greerton aims to join the thousands of Kiwis who quit smoking every year. Photo/Andrew Warner
Kezz Heke of Greerton aims to join the thousands of Kiwis who quit smoking every year. Photo/Andrew Warner

Today's 10 per cent increase in the tax on tobacco is the final straw for Tauranga's Kezz Heke who intends to quit a 35-year smoking habit.

"Imagine how much I will save," she said as she inhaled one of her last smokes in the city's downtown yesterday.

Ms Heke said she will be making an all-out effort to quit cigarettes after her New Year's resolution last year barely lasted three weeks.

Smoking is no longer socially acceptable.
Kezz Heke

Lifting the tax on a packet of 20 budget cigarettes to around $16 will see the cost of her habit speed towards $80 a week - about $5 more than what she currently spends on a pouch of tobacco and packet of cigarettes.

"I can do it. It is won't power, not will power," she said.

Her New Year's resolution will be accompanied by a decision to swap alcohol for water because she fears her resolve will crumble once she has a couple of drinks in the company of friends who smoke.

"I could be saving heaps, it's a waste of money," Ms Heke said.

She reckons she would be able to afford a great holiday and be a lot healthier if she could quit smoking and drinking. "There are more important things I need than cigarettes - smoking is no longer socially acceptable."

Ms Heke intends going cold turkey rather than going down the easier path of nicotine replacements.

She will, however, be munching a lot of chewing gum in a bid to reduce the craving.

The Government's goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025 includes 10 per cent tax hikes from 2010 to 2016, a ban on retail tobacco displays, reducing duty-free allowances and implementing plain-packaging legislation.

Earlier this year, a University of Otago study of price data from more than 450 tobacco retailers on three factory-made cigarette brands showed that New Zealand's dominant tobacco company had not increased prices evenly across its product range.

The budget brand increased by 3 per cent while premium and mainstream cigarette brands showed higher than expected price increases.

Study leader Dr Louise Marsh said the increasing price differential may encourage smokers to move to cheaper brands rather than quit.

A young Tauranga smoker, Pashinces Peka, 18, who says she spends about $50 a week on rollies, does not intend to quit the habit, saying it was her only vice.

She joked that her New Year's resolution should be to get a higher paying job.

She told the Bay of Plenty Times outside a popular Cameron Rd tobacconist yesterday that the Government should be focusing more on alcohol and its health effects.

The Taxpayers' Union's executive director Jordan Williams said that from Friday, a 20 pack of cigarettes retailing for $20 would include about $16 of tax.

While no-one would argue against smokers being taxed to cover the cost of their habit, public health experts were saying the tax was already more than three times the cost to the health system of smoking, Mr Williams said.

Smoking Facts - The 2013 Census

* 463,000 adult smokers in New Zealand (15 per cent)

* 8 per cent fewer adult smokers than 2006 Census

* 65,000 more "former smokers" than 2006

* High smoking rates persist in Maori and Pacific adults

- Bay of Plenty Times

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