Almost 4 tonnes of tobacco was abandoned at New Zealand airports since duty free limits were dropped last November.

Nearly 500kg of tobacco products per month were dumped at the border in the first few months of the lower limit being introduced, Customs Minister Nicky Wagner said today.

That figure dropped to just over 250kg in September, she said.

Tobacco duty limits were reduced to 50 cigarettes, or a 50g, from November 1, 2014.

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Since then 3.8 tonnes of tobacco products have been dumped in Customs bins at international airports across the country - enough to fill a 20ft shipping container.

"Travellers have got the message," Ms Wagner said.

"I'm pleased the duty free change is deterring travellers from bringing tobacco through the border - this contributes to reducing the harm caused by smoking and the Government's goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.

"Hundreds of kilograms of tobacco sent by mail also end up as unclaimed cargo if importers don't pay the duty. This all adds to the significant quantity of tobacco that Customs destroys on a regular basis."

The figures were a timely reminder ahead of the busy Christmas and summer season for those still unaware of the changes, she said.

Passengers have the opportunity to declare and discard excess tobacco when they arrive, or they can opt to pay the additional duty and GST.

Customs recorded around 10,100 transactions for people who chose to pay duty, with the total revenue collected in the year adding to $1.62 million.