The rapid rise of tobacco prices is seeing smokers change habits, say Nelson retailers.
However, there are diehard smokers, who say they cannot give up, paying more than NZ$40 for a packet of their preferred cigarettes.
At 10 per cent increase on cigarettes and tobacco products took effect this month, the first of four annual 10 per cent increases designed to help make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX MEDIA
Smoking just a little more harder to take in with tax hikes on January 1 raising the price of tobacco products by 10 per cent.
The cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes will rise to about $30 in the next four years.
Independent retailer Mark Nicholson of Richmond Discount said the excise tax increases had “not negatively” affected his business.
But he had seen a shift in where people bought their tobacco, and a change from premium to value brands.
“They’ll come to us because it’s a bit cheaper and a bit faster, as opposed to regulatory [procedures] at places like supermarkets,” he said.
While he accepted there was a goal to reduce smoking rates in New Zealand, especially among young people, Nicholson said there were unintended consequences from the price increases.
Some of his regular clients were getting “hammered” financially due to their life-long habit.
“The bulk of our customers are aged, on a pension or fixed income, have smoked their whole life and when they started smoking no one was saying, ‘hey its bad for you’,” he said.
A Nelson smoker of 48 years, who did not want to be named, said he now had to pay NZ$46 for his preferred packet of 40 cigarettes.
“It’s not going to restrict me because I’m craving for the damn thing – I’m addicted and there’s nothing they can come up with any certainty that will knock the cigarettes off,” he said.
He said he started smoking when it was a common part of Kiwi culture, when the health effects were not fully known and there were no warning labels on packets.
Nicholson said another unintended consequence of price rises was to make tobacco products very attractive to organised crime.
As a result, Nicholson said businesses like his spent thousands annually on insurance and security to protect against those looking to cash in.
“The costs just get exponentially higher for us, the risks get exponentially higher and we have to do things to combat that, because you’re talking about a product that’s highly targetable and highly fencible.”
Manager of Fresh Choice Nelson City Mark A’Court said sales for cigarettes and tobacco were down this year.
“This is an ongoing trend for our store over the past few years, where we are 7 per cent down, but not in all supermarkets where tobacco sales actually [show] growth in sales dollars, not volume.”
A’Court said Fresh Choice’s prices were set by its head office and they did not get into discount lines as some stores had done.
Packets of 20 were being sold for between NZ$23- $27, while 30 gram pouches of tobacco were selling between $48-$53.
New Zealand is already one of the most expensive places to buy cigarettes in the world, behind Australia which also has strong pricing measures to deter smokers.
Online database Numbeo shows that a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes costs, on average, NZ$22.
In comparison, the same quantity costs NZ$26.04 in Australia, $NZ15.57 in Britain, $NZ8.99 in the USA and $NZ0.93 in Nigeria.
Smokers have declined significantly in New Zealand in the last 20 years with 17 per cent of adults currently smoking, of which 15 per cent smoke daily.
This has dropped from 25 per cent in 1996/97.
The New Zealand youth smoking rate dropped from 14 per cent to 6 per cent in the past 5 years.
The three key objectives of tobacco control activities in New Zealand are to reduce smoking initiation, increase quitting and reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.
The national target is that 90 percent of Primary Health Organisation-enrolled patients who smoke have been offered help to quit smoking by a health practitioner in the last 15 months.
For the quarter between July and September 2016, Nelson Bays Primary Health sat third on the national table, with 92 per cent.
The cost of smoking: (Source: Quitline)
– Someone smoking a pack a day spends about $160 a week on cigarettes, which is nearly $8,500 each year.
– There are approximately 650,000 smokers in New Zealand.
– 4,700-5,000 New Zealanders die from smoking-related illness each year.
– Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand.