WELLINGTON, New Zealand — There are smoke-free bars, smoke-free parks, even smoke-free college campuses. But a smoke-free country?
New Zealand’s government on Thursday squeezed smokers more than ever by announcing a 40 percent hike in tobacco taxes over the next four years. Prices there are already among the highest in the world, and by 2016 they will top 20 New Zealand dollars ($15) a pack on average.
Officials hope higher taxes and new restrictions will bring the nation of 4.4 million closer to a recent pledge to snuff out the habit entirely by 2025. Other countries have lauded the idea of trying to wean their populace off tobacco, but few have put a date on it.
Smokers aren’t happy about the taxes. One says low-income people might commit crimes to support their habit.