Well here is a fabulous idea: New Zealand is considering raising the price of cigarettes to a whopping $100 a pack (that’s $81 U.S.). It may seem ingenious at first, but it’s not without debate and potentially dangerous consequences.
In an effort to eliminate smoking in their country entirely by the year 2025, New Zealand’s Minister of Health has proposed raising the price of cigarettes be raised to nearly $100 a pack by 2020.
The plan, which is still in a discussion phase, would jack up the price of a pack of cigarettes to $60 in the near future and then raise the price 10% each year after that. They are also considering a less expensive option that would increase the price 10% each year from 2013 to 2025, meaning it would cost $40 a pack by 2024.
If we are to continue to lower smoking prevalence we need to both increase the numbers who successfully quit smoking, and reduce smoking initiation among young people.
All of that sounds like an ingenious idea to me, as a non-smoker who can’t stand smoking. After all, it’s the leading cause of lung cancer deaths and is directly responsible for over 443,000 deaths a year, according to the CDC. In addition, more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths combined from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders.
And the most disturbing part is not only are all of these deaths–and related insurance and health care costs that we all pay–preventable, but smoking often affects more than just the smoker herself. Up to 15,000 hospitalizations each year are related to breathing in someone else’s toxic fumes. Second-hand smoke is also responsible for a 25-35% increase in heart disease and a 20-30% increase in lung cancer to people who are around it regularly.
So, is raising the price of cigarettes to $100 a pack worth it? Absolutely. But does this have potential consequences? Of course.
As my fellow writer, Elizabeth, who is a former smoker, pointed out to me–making cigarettes so expensive would just drive the business underground, encouraging the making and selling of counterfeit cigarettes. This would eliminate any type of regulation on the ingredients and quality, so who knows what people would end up smoking. In addition, she believes it’s unfair:
I mean, I think it’s awful, and that has nothing to do with being a former smoker. I’m just against ‘sin taxes’ like this in the first place, centrally-imposed health morality, etc. It’s unfairly redistributitive.
So tell us what you think. Is raising the price that much a great way to get people to quit smoking or is it unfair and short-sighted?