New cigarette price hike sets in

  • 01/01/2016
New cigarette price hike sets in

Kiwi smokers are about to feel the pinch one more time, as the Government's fourth and final tax hike on cigarettes kicks in.

As of today, the tax on tobacco will go up 10 percent again, giving those looking to quit as a New Year's resolution an extra boost.

The average price of a 20-cigarette packet was more than $20 before the latest price rise.

Quitline team manager Willie Unuka says between New Year's resolutions and the tax going up more people will be encouraged to kick the habit.

Last year 1685 Kiwis signed up to the service in the first week of January.

"A price increase always prompts smokers to try to quit the addiction. Smoking is an expensive habit," he said.

The four annual 10 percent tax rises were introduced in the 2012 budget in order to reduce smoking rates.

But while the tax rises generally have wide political support, the Taxpayers' Union is critical, saying smokers are now paying three times the cost to the health system of smoking.

Tobacco taxes - which account for about 76 percent of the cost - raise at least $1 billion for the Government each year.

Treating smoking-related diseases costs about $350 million a year, but the indirect cost has been calculated to be as high as $1.6 billion from lost production due to sickness, early death and money that could have been spent on other things.

However, the union's Jordan Williams says those costs rest with the individual and not the Government.

The union has released a report critical of the increases and calling for a moratorium, saying they are less likely to affect smoking rates among the poor.

It is also critical of Government funding of "sock puppet" anti-smoking lobby groups and says a blanket ban on e-cigarettes could reduce harm.

Mr Williams told NZ Newswire the report had no backing from the tobacco industry.