By Adam Ray
The Prime Minister says a huge hike in the cost of cigarettes could encourage a black market for smokers.
3 News revealed yesterday that Health Ministry officials think cigarettes need to cost $100 a packet to make New Zealand smoke-free.
But Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia says she has a whatever-it-takes attitude to the idea.
Felix Five would love to quit, but struggles because he's addicted. He says pumping up the cost of cigarettes won't stop smokers.
“People still use heroin,” says the smoker. “It is expensive, cocaine is expensive. So I don't think people will stop smoking.”
A Health Ministry paper obtained by 3 News says drastic measures are needed to meet the Government's aim for New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025.
One proposal is for prices to increase by around a third every year to reach $100 a packet within eight years.
But officials said one shock increase followed by smaller increases is more reasonable.
John Key says the Government is looking at a range of policies to stop smoking and huge price hikes could fuel black market trading.
“Whether that would be sustainable in terms of the black market, I don't know,” says John Key. “It seems like a big step.”
The Health Ministry says the discussion paper may be used to give advice to Government.
3 News asked Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia if she supported the idea of making cigarettes $100 a packet.
She gave a simple answer: whatever it takes.