If you buy one pack of cigarettes a day for the next year about $11,000 of your own money will go up in smoke. But dairy owners say the escalating prices have created a lucrative black market and the poor are being ''held to ransom''.
Cigarette prices jumped 11.4 per cent on New Years' day and police said smokes had become a desirable item, with one independent researcher siting continuous hikes for wild wild west type aggravated robberies.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health was pushing for New Zealand to be smokefree by 2025 and the Lakes District Health Board had seen a 67 per cent increase of people seeking help.
But Springfield Superette & Lotto owner Raj Kumar said ''prohibition, upping prices and holding people to ransom was not the way''.
''There is a black market now because [people] can't afford smokes and what do thieves want to steal?'' They want to steal something that is valuable.''
Kumar said supermarkets were the biggest sellers of cigarettes.
''Why fry the small fish when the sharks are the supermarkets?''
Lucky Lottery Shop manager Guhdeep Singh said selling cigarettes definitely increased a store's risk of being robbed.
He said although his store had not been targeted for them, he had heard of others that had.
The cost did not deter many people when it came to buying them, but he said many just opted for the cheapest option.
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He found more often than not it would be tourists that would say no when they heard the price.
Independent researcher Marewa Glover told Radio New Zealand the price hikes were disproportionately affecting vulnerable members of society and they needed to stop.
"If anything, I believe, it's driving financial stress, causing extra strain and that becomes a driver to smoke.''
She said attacks on dairy owners in aggravated robberies was another unintended consequence and ''it's been like the wild wild west here in New Zealand with aggravated robberies and serious harm being done to some shopkeepers''.
Meanwhile, Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said New Zealand charged the world's highest income-adjusted rate of tobacco excise.
He said a huge proportion of smokers were Māori and the government had given with one hand and taken far more with the other.
A police spokesperson said cigarettes and tobacco were a desirable item for thieves as they were easily transportable and often on-sold quickly.
"Police are aware of the significant impact robberies, including dairy robberies, can have on victims and we are determined to continue working to help bring offenders to account."
Lakes District Health Board lifestyle medicine consultant Dr Hayden McRobbie said some good evidence increasing the price of tobacco was associated with reduced uptake, cutting down, and an increase in quit attempts.
He said reducing the number of retailers able to sell tobacco was a scheme that warranted investigation.
''There are already a number of retailers throughout New Zealand that have chosen to stop selling tobacco, and the DHB encourages more retailers to go tobacco-free.''
McRobbie said there had been a 67 per cent increase in the number of people enrolling in its local Stop Smoking Service, provided by Tipu Ora, from 2016/17 and 2018/19.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she campaigned for the Smokefree Environments legislation ''because as a health practitioner I had seen for many years the effects of smoking on the health of babies and adults''.
But now her big concern lay with vaping.
''I think the great gains made by the legislation are being rapidly diminished by the allowing of vaping. Many teens, as well as adults, appear to consider vaping to be a safe and healthy long-term option and I have personally contacted the Minister of Health to express my concern''.
Ministry of Health acting manager for tobacco control, Matthew Burgess, acknowledged that vaping, while not completely harmless, was a safer alternative for people who are unable or unwilling to completely quit smoking.
He said the Ministry and Health Promotion Agency were preparing information for the public on vaping as a way to help people stop smoking but did not advocate vaping for non-smokers or young people.
Want to give up?
* Tipu Ora is a free service and you can call 0800-348-2400 or www.tostopsmoking.nz for more information.
* It provides a number of tools, including nicotine patches, gum and lozenges as well as the stop smoking medications available on prescription, and guidance to help whānau quit.