By Brook Sabin
Huge increases in the price of tobacco are on the cards, with official documents saying a packet of cigarettes needs to be “$100” if New Zealand is to become smoke-free.
The startling figure is contained in a confidential report obtained by 3 News, exploring the Government's newly adopted goal of being a smoke-free nation by 2025.
The Government wants to stub out smoking in New Zealand in just 13-years’ time.
The document, released to 3 News under the Official Information Act, gives the first insight into the drastic measures that will be required, and huge tax increases appear inevitable.
“Tax is about the most effective measure of reducing smoking and encouraging smokers to quit that we've got,” says professor Richard Edwards of the Department of Public Health at University of Otago.
Modelling in the document shows if the price of cigarettes was increased to $40 a pack by 2025, combined with other ambitious policies, New Zealand would fail in becoming smoke-free.
A second model shows packs at $100 each by 2020, with further tax increases after that.
That model shows we would reach the 2025 target.
But officials admit increases like that are quote "probably unrealistic".
Smoke-free advocate and Mana Party MP Hone Harawira says toughen up.
“Now is not the time to be saying ‘oh, this could be unrealistic’. Now is the time to be saying we're going to lead the world.”
The most likely model would see a shock tax increase next year, which would eventually see a packet of cigarettes cost around $60 by 2025.
Other ideas discussed in the document include regulating tobacco as a highly toxic substance, a ban on smoking in cars with children, a doubling of anti-smoking media campaigns and removing tobacco from duty-free.
The Ministry of Health is at pains to point out the paper is an internal policy discussion and does not represent Government policy.
Further work is being done before recommendations will be made to the Government.
“It's fabulous that the Government has adopted this as a goal,” says Mr Edwards. “It is the first Government in the world, and this is leading edge stuff.”
But it is clear difficult decisions, including huge tax increases, lie ahead, or else the goal could well go up in smoke.