There was a time when overseas travel was synonymous with cheap cigarettes. From the hordes who would puff away on ciggies in the aircraft's smoking section to the stacks of duty-free cartons tucked under the arms of Kiwis returning from abroad, travel and tobacco went hand in yellowed hand.

How times change. The only people I've seen smoking on an aircraft in the past decade were some cabin crew having a cheeky durrie down the back of an Olympic Air flight from London to Athens.

The announcement last month that the Government is reducing the allowance for duty-free cigarette purchases is more good news for those of us who would be happy to see the tobacco trade gasp its final breath on these shores. On November 1, the duty-free allowance will fall from 200 cigarettes per passenger to 50 cigarettes.

For my money, cigarette companies shouldn't be allowed the advantage of selling at duty-free prices. A product that places such a profound long-term drain on our economy through health spending and lost economic productivity deserves no free ride.


The reduction is in keeping with changes to society's attitudes about tobacco. We've beaten the cigarette peddlers out of restaurants, cafes and bars. We've kicked them out of planes, buses and sports venues. Some day - with luck - we'll be rid of them altogether.

The National Party has two ex-tobacco lobbyists lined up to contest seats in the September election. One of them, Todd Barclay, is a shoo-in for the job, courtesy of true-blue Clutha-Southland. The other, Christopher Bishop, has his work cut out against Labour's Trevor Mallard in the Hutt South electorate.

Both once worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Nicotine's stench is long lasting. Should these ex-tobacco men make it to the Government benches, it's unlikely they would opine on the subject of duty-free cigarettes. But lobbyists rarely do their work in the public eye.

Killing people by lung cancer is big business. Auckland Airport (22.5 per cent publicly owned) has estimated the move could reduce the company's revenue by up to $8 million a year. Good - it was tainted money anyway.