Cigarette sales take 11pc hit

Last updated 17:47 23/02/2012

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New Zealanders are changing their smoking habits, either by ditching cigarettes or opting for cheaper brands in exchange for a few more dollars in their wallets, research suggests.

Cigarette sales dropped by 11 per cent last year, which is a direct result of the price hikes imposed on tobacco since 2010, End Smoking NZ trust chairman Murray Laugesen said.

Three price hikes have seen the cost of tobacco increase by up to 33 per cent.

Laugesen has analysed data from 11 tobacco companies which are required to provide sales information to the Ministry of Health.

The data shows that sales dropped 11 per cent from 2010 to 2011. When combined with data from the previous year, sales have decreased by 20 per cent since the first price increase was imposed in April, 2010.

"There's been a big shift to smaller product sizes and people have shifted to low cost brands," Laugesen said.

"But we've still got a long way to go - almost 3000 million cigarettes were sold last year."

The data released by the Ministry of Health this week shows that sales were 6.4 per cent lower for factory-made cigarettes, and 17 per cent lower for roll-your own tobacco.

Compared to 2010, manufacturers and importers reported 329 million fewer cigarettes sold.

Parliament gave overwhelming support to a tobacco tax increase in April, 2010.

The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes raised by about a dollar overnight, and two more increases, on January 1, 2011 and January 1 this year has seen the cost increase further.

Sales haven't been measured against the latest increase, which Laugesen believes will also have an effect.

"Sales per adult partly reflect trends in the numbers quitting successfully, and partly how many cigarettes smokers smoke," Laugesen said.

It didn't necessarily mean people were stopping smoking all together, but they were changing their habits, by smoking less or opting for cheaper brands.

Sales of popular brands, such as Holiday and Horizon and roll-you-own Port Royal, have taken a 15 and 30 per cent dive, respectively.

But budget brands such as JPS and Longbeach have seen their sales soar by 47 and 19 per cent.

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