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Smokers to feel the pinch

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/05/2016 Sarah Robson

Cigarettes © Getty Images Cigarettes Smokers are going to be feeling the pinch, with the government confirming the tax on tobacco will continue to increase by 10 per cent a year for the next four years.

That's going to push the price of a packet of cigarettes up to around $30.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga says raising the price of tobacco is the single most powerful tool to reduce smoking.

"All smokers will face the price rises. The more they smoke, the more they pay. The more they pay, the greater the incentive to quit," he said.

It's estimated between 4500 and 5000 people die from smoking-related illnesses each year and Mr Lotu-Iiga said increasing tax helps reduce the incredibly serious harm caused by smoking.

About 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders smoke. The figure for Maori is 35 per cent and for Pacific peoples it's 22 per cent.

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King agrees it's a good idea to keep increasing taxes on tobacco.

However, she said the money raised must go back into public health.

"That is to anti-smoking measures, anti-obesity measures, into improving people's health," she told reporters.

"It's a great revenue raiser and it is a good measure to help reduce consumption of tobacco, but if it's just going into the consolidated funds so that the government's deficit looks better, that's not good use of that money and it's not good for New Zealand."

NZ First leader Winston Peters is worried about the impact on people's wallets.

"If it's a legal product, why are they slamming working people so hard on the matter?" he said.

"A lot of children will not be fed because of that."

Prime Minister John Key accepts it is a "bit of tough love", but he maintains it's the right thing to do.

"We know that the fastest way of deterring people, particularly young people, from starting smoking is price increases," he said.

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