New Zealand's war on tobacco and its ill-fated smoke-free goal for 2025 is causing poorer Kiwi smokers more harm than good.
With the country's tobacco prices second only to Australia's as the most expensive in the world, the most vulnerable in society are resorting to reusing tobacco that has already been smoked.
As most reused tobacco is left at the very end of the cigarette, it will have already been contaminated further by the toxins in the smoke that attach to the unsmoked tobacco.
With this tobacco containing up to four times more harmful chemicals than fresh tobacco, several cigarette-ends then rolled into a recycled cigarette can have up to 20 times more toxins than a normal cigarette.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey's director of the Tobacco Dependence Program and author of the research paper "Cigarette Relighting Tied to Tough Economy", Dr Michael Steinberg said in difficult economic times, increasing numbers of smokers are relighting
- reusing - the end portion of the cigarette that is typically discarded.
"Smokers who relight cigarettes may be at higher risk of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis," he said.
"That is something of which policy makers need to be aware."
Dr Steinberg said rising tobacco prices disproportionately affect beneficiaries.
"While the relighting of cigarettes is a relatively unexplored smoking behaviour, it was anticipated that certain economic characteristics, such as lower education and lack of employment, would be related to a higher level of relighting."
Several beneficiaries spoken to by the Herald told of physical and mental health problems associated with re-using tobacco.
"Tobacco keeps going up and this is what it comes to, rolling up cigarette butts," said
Frankie Docherty as he emptied discarded cigarette ends into a rolling paper.
When asked how it made him feel, Doherty said: "It's horrible on the chest and it makes me feel like crap.
"It's not good for my health or dignity."
Other smokers said they often forego healthy food in favour of tobacco and cigarettes.
Two other beneficiaries, who asked not to be named, said they had spent the morning walking the city centre streets looking for cigarette ends and asking smokers if they could spare some tobacco and said their addiction was their priority,
"It's really expensive [tobacco], It's really hard for beneficiaries and takes most of our money," one said.
"We would rather buy smokes than having food," added the other.
Two of the biggest killers in New Zealand, particularly in the lower socio-economic sections of society are heart disease and diabetes, both of which can be as a result of unhealthy diets.
A 2020 study carried out by University of Canterbury Health Sciences PhD student Ben Wamamili, found that the rate of students smoking across eight New Zealand universities was just 8.4 per cent, compared to the national figure of 13 per cent.
Those spoken to by the Herald said it was a generational awareness of the adverse health effects and the changing social image of smokers rather than the price that deterred them from smoking.
Christchurch student Molly Swift said it was easy to explain whether it was health issues or pricing issues that deterred her from smoking,
"Definitely health effects. I don't see any benefits in smoking, and I think it's seen as unattractive nowadays," she said.
ACT leader David Seymour has long been against the continuing rise of tobacco taxes having previously said they are an attack on the country's poorest and have little or no effect of deterring those already addicted.
"Tobacco taxes are failing to reduce smoking levels," he said.
"Despite virtually doubling the rate of excise, smoking rates have fallen by only a few percentage points.
"A new EY report commissioned by the Government shows fewer than half of smokers have responded to tax increases by buying fewer tobacco products.
"More concerning is the fact that one in 10 lower-income households are going without the basics in order to buy tobacco.
"Tobacco taxes are quite literally taking food out of the mouths of some of the poorest children in this country."