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New Zealand Strives to Be the World’s First Smoke-Free Nation

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ed_welker, Flickr

Cigarette smoking is already banned in many public places, including bars and restaurants — but if New Zealand has its way, it won’t be long before no one there smokes at all.

The South Pacific nation already has the world’s highest cigarette prices, and it just enacted a 40 percent tobacco tax hike that will see the cost of a pack of smokes rise to $15 by 2016.

The idea is to make cigarettes so expensive that people quit smoking. About 20 percent of New Zealand adults now smoke, down from 30 percent in 1986. Supporters of the new tax also point out that cigarette sales during that time period have fallen more sharply, suggesting that even people who haven’t given up smoking altogether have certainly cut back as prices rose.

But there could be unintended consequences. Detractors say the higher prices will drive some low-income people to commit crimes to support their habit, and others worry tax increases will force consumers to turn to the black market.

Local resident and smoker Hayley Mauriohooho says that while she supports people who quit, a higher per-pack price won’t spur her to do so. “It’s quite ridiculous for the government to be concentrating on [this],” she said. “They have bigger things to worry about.”

[Associated Press]

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