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Marlborough health workers applaud tobacco tax increase

A Springlands man who smoked 100 cigarettes a day and now suffers from a debilitating lung conditions says a tobacco tax hike does not go far enough.

Upping the cost of cigarettes has been applauded by Marlborough health workers, although some convenience store workers are wary of a spike in thefts following the move.

The cost of a packet of cigarettes will rise to about $30 in the next four years after the Budget delivered a 10 per cent a year tax rise.

Springlands resident Jerome O’Malley​ is living with the effects of a smoking habit that he kicked more than 30 years ago.

O’Malley, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said it was a great move to increase the tax on cigarettes.

“Cigarettes cause a huge amount of distress. It kills people.

“In my view it wouldn’t do any great harm to ban them completely.”

Asthma Marlborough respiratory educator Karen Vis said the cigarette price hike was good news.

“I know it’s hard for people to give up smoking but it has been proven that substantial increases in price do help people to quit.”

Smoking caused a lot of damage and long term health issues, Vis said.

There was good support in Marlborough for people who wanted to quit smoking.

“We’ve had some really good drops in our smoking rates.

“We’re on the right track and people are being really good about trying to give up.

“The most important thing is that they do keep trying .”

High St Dairy and Takeaway shop assistant Pei Chin said she was worried that the number of cigarette thefts at the store would increase when the price of cigarettes went up.

She had several customers who had asked her about price hike after the Budget announcement.

“A lot of the customers who have been smoking for 40 or 50 years are very worried about it.”

Scott St Dairy manager Sukhjinder Singh said while Blenheim was reasonably safe, he was concerned that tobacco theft would increase following the price increase in other parts of the country.

“We are lucky that we are in a good area.”

There were 40 listings nationally for tobacco seeds and tobacco plants on Trade Me on Friday, including a listing for tobacco seeds posted by a Nelson resident.

Marlborough police community constable Russell Smith said he had not heard of anyone attempting to grow their own tobacco in Marlborough.

The type of people who were committed enough to grow their own tobacco were unlikely to be the ones who were priced out of buying cigarettes, Smith said.

Crime around stealing tobacco products was at a low level in Marlborough, Smith said.

Marlborough Primary Health Organisation community health services manager Amaroa Katu​ said as the price of cigarettes continued to rise, there was a national increase in the number of people who were seeking support to quit smoking.

“Raising the cost is one of the leading factors for people to quit smoking or reduce smoking.”

There would be some people who would continue to smoke regardless of how high the price of cigarettes rose because of the extent of their addiction, Katu said.

Staff at Marlborough general practices could provide support for patients to stop smoking, while there was a Quit Coach based at Wairau Hospital.

There were also two separate programmes encouraging people to quit smoking that were targeted at Maori and Pacific populations in Marlborough.

Wairau Bar resident Jason Kingi, who has smoked for the past 20 years, said he was unsure whether increasing the cost of tobacco products would stop people from smoking.

“I think a lot of people are so addicted that their families will go without.

“Every time they hike the price they say they want people to give up but it actually just makes poor families poorer.”

The results of the New Zealand Health Survey for 2011-2013 show 16.7 per cent of Marlborough residents were smokers.

The 10 per cent tax rise on tobacco will raise an extra $425 million in tax revenue for the Government over the next four years.

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