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1 Sep, 2020 17:23

Australia hikes cigarette taxes for second time this year, making it MOST EXPENSIVE place in the WORLD to smoke

Australia hikes cigarette taxes for second time this year, making it MOST EXPENSIVE place in the WORLD to smoke

It costs AU$1.75 (US$1.29) per cigarette in Australia after the country slapped a second tax increase on tobacco in a bid to discourage the unhealthy (if lucrative) act, making them the most expensive anywhere in the world.

Australian cigarette smokers were hit with a 12.5 percent tax increase on Tuesday, the second tobacco excise tax hike Canberra has leveled against consumers this year. A package of 20 cigarettes now costs AU$35 (US$25) and brand-name smokes are even more dear, at upwards of AU$40 per pack.

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Cigarette taxes are a bonanza for the Australian government, which makes about AU$17 billion annually from the levy. However, as taxes rise, so does the black market trade in tobacco. According to the Australian border force, the illegal business is worth more than AU$546 million.

Government officials say they want to discourage the dangerous behavior, and the tax hikes have succeeded in sending the percentage of Australians who smoke down from 20 percent in 2001 to just under 14 percent in 2018. However, cigarette consumption hasn’t necessarily trended downward during that time – it rose in the last quarter of 2017, bucking a lengthy decline.

Some officials want Canberra to do more to encourage vaping, which many health experts believe is less harmful but which remains technically illegal in Australia. While vapes and e-cigarettes can be sold without nicotine, possession and use of nicotine for vaping is banned under nationwide poison regulations. However, a smoker can obtain a prescription for liquid nicotine, a permit to import it for personal consumption – or merely buy it on the black market, which is the most popular method, according to the Daily Mail.

With the new prices, the average pack-a-day smoker is spending an eye-popping AU$12,500 per year on their habit, a hefty sum especially in light of the worldwide economic depression that has followed on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic. Over a million people in Australia lost their jobs in a single month following the imposition of lockdown measures in March, and the strict controls on movement and activity were estimated to be costing the economy AU$4 billion per week.

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After Australia, New Zealand is the next-most expensive place to smoke cigarettes, with taxes raising the cost per pack above $AU23.50. Ireland, Norway, and the UK are next, though parts of the US – specifically New York and New Jersey – rival those nations.

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