Editorial: Duty-free smokes helped me kick habit

By Kelly Makiha

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When you are a smoker, there is nothing more exciting than taking an overseas trip.

No, it's not to catch up with your mates on the Gold Coast or lie on the beaches in Fiji.

It's the thrill of getting your hands on ultra cheap cigarettes in duty free.

A smoker in a DFS store is the proverbial kiddie in a lolly shop.

But much like smoking in public places, that right may soon get stripped from smokers.

The Heart Foundation has called for the Government to abolish duty-free tobacco sales, calling it New Zealand's latest source of black market cigarettes.

In its submission on the Customs and Excise (Tobacco Products Budget Measures) Bill, the Heart Foundation has said duty-free cigarettes currently cost the Government $63 million a year in lost revenue.

This money could instead be directed to initiatives to fight heart disease, the single biggest killer of New Zealanders.

The foundation said it was not just individuals buying up large at the cigarette counter to sell to their friends, but it was not uncommon for tour group leaders to purchase their group's quota to then sell on to black market suppliers.

They say duty-free tobacco does not send the message that this country is committed to achieving its smoke-free goal by 2025. Looking at it from this point of view, the Heart Foundation is quite right.

But I can say duty-free cigarettes were the main reason I quit my 20-a-day habit in 2005.

I had just been on a world trip with my husband and I had purchased a carton at most of the international airports we travelled through.

I had quite the little stash when I got home.

It lasted several weeks. During those weeks, I got so used to not forking out the $80 a week to buy my cigarettes that I simply couldn't justify carrying it on.

Seven years later, I couldn't be more grateful for duty-free cigarettes.

Kelly Makiha is chief reporter for The Daily Post in Rotorua.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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