21 Jan 2019

Price rises won't stub out smoking: 'It's my decision to carry on'

5:24 pm on 21 January 2019

Quitline has seen a surge of people wanting to give up smoking after the tax hikes on New Year's Day - but many smokers say the price increase won't change their habits.

Man smoking cigarette and using an ashtray

Photo: 123rf.com

The price of cigarettes increased by 10 percent, taking the average price of a 20-pack to $27, $2 more than last year.

But despite the $11 increase over the last six years, not everyone is ready to give up.

Quitline was contacted 1700 times in the first week of January, about 500 more than in the same week last year.

Quitline chief executive Andrew Slater said there had been a dramatic increase in people reaching out for help.

"The new year is a time when people look to improve their health. [For] smokers, it's when they think most about giving up smoking."

But a Ministry of Health tobacco tax excise evaluation released last year shows focus groups thought most smokers would rather pay more than go without.

Business owner Paolo Lima buys more than five packets of cigarettes a week and said he would have to spend an extra $200 keep up his habit.

"It's my decision to carry on smoking. I'm completely aware of the 5187 [sic] chemical substances in each cigarette and I still smoke.

"It's not that I don't know what I'm using. At the end of the day it's my body."

Lending consultant Kunal is giving up because of the new costs.

He said he missed cigarettes when he was socialising, making quitting difficult.

"It only kind of affects me when I'm having a few beers or something.

"Depending on who you're with, your friends or your family, if they're smoking around you then you feel like one."

Action for Smokefree New Zealand spokesperson Ben Youdan said New Zealand was now one of the most expensive places to be a smoker.

He said it was obvious that smoking was addictive but it could also be a personal issue for people.

The Ministry of Health said it was committed to the Smokefree 2025 goal and considered vaping and e-cigarettes a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

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