Tauranga smokers are exploring cheaper alternatives after feeling the blow of the 10 per cent tax increase on tobacco this year.

Entrepreneurial home tobacco plant growers are cashing in on the price hike and using websites and social media pages to sell tobacco plant seeds in a push to "grow your own".

Although it is illegal in New Zealand to sell or gift home-grown tobacco plants, people can legally grow tobacco for their own use and sell and buy the seeds.

Searches for "tobacco seeds" on Trade Me last week had increased by 10 per cent on a year ago and was the top tobacco-related search in the past 12 months.


The Bay of Plenty accounted for about 7 per cent of tobacco seed purchases nationwide in the past year - which peaked over summer, Trade Me spokesperson Paul Ford said.

"Searches for tobacco seeds routinely ramp up through December and peak in the middle of January."

Nationwide sales had seen a boost with 62 per cent of tobacco seed listings sold between July and December 2014, compared to only 39 per cent between November 2013 and June 2014.

Rotorua woman Emma Wallace was starting to grow tobacco plants and selling the seeds to people across the Bay of Plenty on Facebook.

She said she was surprised by the huge interest from Tauranga and had started posting orders around the wider Bay of Plenty area.

"Cigarettes are getting more and more expensive. Wages aren't going up but everything else is.

"If I'm going to kill myself smoking I may as well grow my own so I don't go broke while I'm at it."

Tauranga woman Mereana Tupara-Burgess was enquiring about the tobacco seeds for sale on the Tauranga Buy, Swap, Sell Facebook page for her husband, Nathan.


He was looking for alternatives after his usual 30g pack of loose tobacco went up to about $40 and it was putting pressure on their budget.

"We just looked around for cheaper options. He's not ready to give up and doesn't want to be forced to give up," she said.

She gave up eight years ago when she fell pregnant with their first child and was glad they now did not have to fund both their smoking habits.

"We could never afford that."

They also planned to look into e-cigarettes but were keen to give growing their own tobacco plants a go.

As another option, 72 smokers in the Bay of Plenty signed up to quit in the first week of January alone, which Quitline attributed to the 10 per cent increase in tobacco.


Quitline chief executive Paula Snowden said a price increase always prompted smokers to try to quit the addiction.

"While the Government sets the 10 per cent excise increase, some people don't realise that the proportion of this that is passed on to the consumer is actually determined by the tobacco industry."

The 'home grown' allowance

Individuals may manufacture up to 15kg of home-grown tobacco per adult per year for personal use. This equates to between 50 and 100 cigarettes per person per day, depending on tobacco content.

" ... it can take some skill to make a palatable tobacco product from a home grown plant."

- Ministry of Health regulatory impact statement on options to reduce New Zealand's duty-free tobacco concessions.