More tax hikes needed to be smokefree

Last updated 11:43 03/09/2014

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Bigger tax hikes on cigarettes - on top of other measures - will be needed to make the country "smokefree" by 2025, researchers say.

Tobacco excise tax is already due to increase by 10 per cent a year for the next two years, lifting the price of an average pack of 20 cigarettes to more than $20 by 2016. Researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington calculated that continuing the 10 per cent annual excise rises through to 2025 could mean a decline in adult smoking levels from 15.1 per cent in 2013 to about 8.7 per cent.

Even if the annual tax increase was 20 per cent, smoking prevalence was still calculated to be about 7.6 per cent in 2025. That remained above the 5 per cent or less smoking level which was a working definition of smokefree, the university said today. The government's official target is for New Zealand to be smokefree by 2025.

Professor Tony Blakely, one of the study authors, said international evidence showed that increasing tobacco tax was one of the most important tobacco control measures, and the researchers encouraged policymakers to extend the annual tobacco tax increases from 2016.

"But we most likely need a wider range of strategies to achieve the Government's smokefree goal," he said.

Another of the study's authors, associate professor Nick Wilson, said extra measures could include more use of automated quitting advice via the internet, more regulation of e-cigarettes, and the phasing down of nicotine levels in tobacco.

"One additional simple approach would be to follow Brazil and ban all additives to tobacco, including menthol and sugar," he said.

The study was published in the journal Tobacco Control.

A separate University of Otago study found the removal of cigarette and tobacco displays and promotion in shops helped prevent young people take up smoking and kept quitters on track.

The research looked at 20 studies published since 2008 that investigated the relationship between smoking and tobacco promotion in stores. It was published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

"The evidence suggests that if tobacco is no longer openly displayed in stores, young people change the way they think about smoking - they see it as being less common," study lead researcher Lindsay Robertson said.

"This finding is very important because we know that the less common smoking is seen to be, the less likely young people will smoke." 

A ban on retail displays of cigarettes started in July 2012.

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