$20 for pack of smokes 'not enough'
Tobacco tax should be higher, doctor saysNICOLE MATHEWSON
Legislation to push the cost of cigarettes above $20 does not go far enough, a Christchurch doctor says.
The Government last night passed legislation to raise the tobacco excise by 10 per cent a year for the next four years.
It is expected to lift the average price of a pack of cigarettes from about $14.30 today to $20 or more by 2016.
End Smoking New Zealand chairman Dr Murray Laugesen said anti-smoking groups like his had been campaigning for a 40 per cent increase next year, followed by 20 per cent increases each year after that.
He said the higher increases were needed if New Zealand was to become smokefree by 2025.
He did not believe the Government's plan would decrease smoking rates ''a great deal'', but would increase government revenue.
''They don't go far enough,'' he said.
''All the health groups have asked for much more. However, it does give a clear message to smokers that the price will increase and will continue to increase for at least the next four years.''
End Smoking New Zealand and Canterbury University planned to conduct a study this summer to ask smokers how much they were willing to pay before they quit the habit, Laugesen said.
The results are expected to be released next April.
In central Christchurch, smokers Regan Todd, 19, and Thorben Hoffschneider, 28, said they thought the 10 per cent price increases would encourage people to cut down or quit smoking.
''There's a lot that don't really have much money to smoke anyway, so they'll definitely quite, I reckon,'' Todd said.
Hoffschneider, who smokes about 20 cigarettes a week, said he would probably smoke less when the price went up.
Emma Tainui, 26, said she did not care about the price increases at the moment.
''If it was like a hundred bucks a packet, then yeah [I'd quit],'' she said.
''I don't think they're putting it up because they care about people's lives though. The Government just wants more money.''
Jayde Curry, 26, said she would not pay more than $20 for a packet of cigarettes.
''I agree with them, they should go up,'' she said.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said increasing the tobacco tax was the ''single most effective measure'' for driving down smoking rates.
''It is effective, it is immediate and we know it works.''
She denied tobacco reform was important because of the revenue gained from having a higher excise tax.
''There is only one universal goal in my mind and that is to reduce tobacco consumption.''
Turia said the goal was to have a smokefree New Zealand by 2025, and further excise tax increases after 2016 could be imposed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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