Smokers cop another price hike

Tumut’s Rick Watts is outraged about the latest cigarette price hike.

The price of cigarettes rose by 12.5 per cent on Tuesday as the Federal government raised its tobacco excise tax.

A packet of 20 cigarettes will now cost between $35 and $40, and Australia has the most expensive cigarettes in the world.

It is the eighth successive year tobacco prices have gone up. 

There are no grey areas in Tumut smoker Rick Watts’ feelings about the price hike.

Mr Watts believes this is particularly harsh given the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on everyday Australian life.

“Most people in lockdown are bored, and when you are bored, you smoke more,” he said.

Mr Watts, who has been smoking for 50 years, since he was 13, thought it was tough enough for smokers as it was.

“I buy three-packs because I smoke 40 a day, and that costs me $145, and now it’s going to be $210,” he said.

“That’s just ridiculous. Why such a high percentage increase?”

Mr Watts believes that smokers should not be targeted and wages should be put up to compensate for the price increase.

“Why victimise smokers?” he said.

However, he says that the price increase will not convince him to give up the habit.

“I’m full-on addicted,” he said.

“I’d go mad if I had to give up smoking.”

Trevor Hansen, a Tumut resident who’s been smoking for five years more than Mr Watts, isn’t thrilled about the price hike either.

“It’s terrific isn’t it?” he said.

“The government does whatever they want and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Mr Hansen spends $200 a week on smoking, while his wife spends $100 and son $250.

Like Mr Watts, he can’t see himself giving the habit away.

“It’s hard to stop, even though I would like to,” he said.

“Mentally I couldn’t handle it.” 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has stated that lungs affected by cigarette smoking are more vulnerable to Covid-19, suggesting that now is a good time for smokers to think about quitting.

The Federal Government aims to reduce smoking rates further, to less than 10 per cent by 2025 through the 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy and has committed $31.6 million over four years from 2019-20 to reduce smoking prevalence.

One option for Australian smokers is to move to Nigeria, where a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes costs the equivalent of $1.17.