Smokers choke on rise of price tag

By John Weekes

A 20-pack of cigarettes is going to cost more than $15. Photo / Gerard Johnston
A 20-pack of cigarettes is going to cost more than $15. Photo / Gerard Johnston

A standard 20-pack of cigarettes will break through the $15 price tag on New Year's Day.

The 14.6 per cent price hike, the result of the annual adjustment to the excise duty, is the third since June last year.

Scientist and tobacco industry whistleblower Dr Jeffrey Wigand said New Zealand had made progress at fighting tobacco addiction but more work was needed.

"I would like to see New Zealand start restricting parents or adults from smoking in the front of the car with the windows rolled up and the baby tethered in the back in a safety seat. I think that's child abuse. That child has no choice but to breathe in that toxin - and we know second-hand smoke
kills."

Wigand said new products like smokeless cigarettes and e-cigarettes were often simply ways of keeping people hooked on nicotine.

Quitline spokesman Bruce Bassett said he expected a surge of interest from people aiming to quit.

He said the past two tax increases saw about a 93 per cent increase in demand for Quitline services.

Bassett said the $15 mark would have an added impact on smokers' thinking. "I think there are price thresholds and when the prices get to a certain point, it shocks people into realising how much of their discretionary income is being put into feeding their addiction."

Sophie Frakes, 21, has been a smoker for about six years. Her usual Baseline brand costs $12.50 for a pack of 20 - less than many others. Frakes said a 10 per cent price hike on cigarette excise would not make her quit. Instead, she'd find other ways to save money: "I'd rather go without buying my lunch."

An Auckland dairy manager said two of his four best-selling 20 packs would shoot beyond $15 on New Year's Day.

Susan Jones of British American Tobacco said tobacco excise was subject to an annual calculation performed by Customs. This excise rise was partially based on the consumer price index.

- Herald on Sunday

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