Rising tobacco prices are causing some people to turn to local growers to satisfy their craving.

The Chronicle was last week offered 30 grams of tobacco, advertised on the Facebook page 'Buy, Sell, Swap Whanganui', for just $20. The retail price would normally be nearer $50.

Whanganui illustrator Charlie Treefrog received homegrown tobacco as a gift from a friend.

"It was pretty good - it was cured with oranges and rum," he said.

Advertisement

Student Tyran Head says the homegrown alternative is much cheaper. "It costs $50 for a 30-gram pack these days - it's just getting ridiculous. My guy charges me $15."

Growing tobacco can take up to three months but the process is a simple one.

"The only problem is you have to wait for your guy to harvest. But when he does, if he knows what he's doing, it tastes just like the stuff from the store," Mr Head said.

It is legal to grow the plant for personal use but selling for cash or exchanging gifts can carry stiff penalties.

In June 2012 a Motueka man was fined $6000 after police found 4790 kilograms of the plant at his property ready for sale.

With the latest tax hike, smoking costs more than $7000 a year if you buy a pack a day.

Action on Smoking and Health New Zealand estimates that illicit tobacco accounts for between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of all cigarettes smoked in New Zealand. Although the percentage of smokers in the region is falling, our national average remains high. Statistics New Zealand says the number of regular smokers in Whanganui has dropped from 23 per cent in 2006 to 17 per cent in 2013, compared to the national average of 14 per cent.

The Ministry of Health says between 4500 and 5000 people die from smoking-related causes each year.