New Zealand’s government is considering $100-a-pack cigarettes as part of its tough program to stamp out smoking by 2025, internal documents say.
The idea of charging $5 a cigarette is the most radical of several ideas floated in a Ministry of Health discussion paper obtained through a freedom of information request by the 3 News television network.
“Whatever it takes” is the reaction to the idea from New Zealand’s associate health minister Tariana Turia, when questioned by 3 News.
Prime Minister John Key was more skeptical, saying he feared the consequences in black market sales of cigarettes.
Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, is equally skeptical.
“It’s a good conversation point. I doubt it would be a good policy. Taxation is not my favourite tool. It puts the blame on the smoker as opposed to the tobacco companies and I would be concerned about the burden on household incomes.”
Callard praised New Zealand overall campaign, which includes the also-controversial switch to plain packaging.
The New Zealand government cabinet has agreed in principle to follow Australia’s lead and package all cigarettes in similar boxes that are essentially health warnings rather than brand names.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has protested New Zealand’s move as trademark infringement. The government of Australia faces legal challenges on three levels to its plain packaging law, which comes into effect in December.
“The chambers of commerce were recruited by the tobacco companies to represent their interests,” said Callard. “That position has not been supported by any international agencies who have death with intellectual property rights.”