Will New Zealand Be Smoke-Free by 2025?
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New Zealand is ramping its war on smoking up to a whole new level with a tax hike that health officials openly hope will extinguish the habit by 2025. The strategy is to keep raising the price of cigs until people just can't or won't buy them anymore. Some officials wanted the price of a pack put up to as much as $48 NZD ($75 USD), but that was shelved in favor of a much more moderate, but still significant, hike to $9 NZD ($14 USD) by 2016. Stores must also now keep smokes behind counters, instead of on display. New Zealand's Cancer Society is unsurprisingly thrilled by the news, issuing a press release entitled “Thumbs Up!” But of course smokers are grumbling—one unhappy citizen concedes that it would be good for people to quit, but insists the high prices won't stop her. “It's quite ridiculous for the government to be concentrating on that,” she says. “They have bigger things to worry about.” Tobacco companies are also taking it badly, lashing out with claims that the legislation will drive smokers to the black market for cheap cigs: “Consumer demand is far better served by legitimate companies than by the illegal operators that will surely grow as the government makes it increasingly difficult for people to buy their product of choice,” writes Susan Jones, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at the New Zealand Branch of British American Tobacco. Right now, 20% of New Zealanders smoke, compared with 17% of Americans and 27% of people in France.