Govt takes hard line on tobacco

THE overnight rise in the price of cigarettes has seen some residents stockpile and others vow to quit.The federal government yesterday announced the tax on cigarettes would rise by 25 per cent at midnight as part of their crackdown on smoking.The plan is for at least a million people to cut tobacco consumption by 2020 and provide the government with an extra $5 billion over four years to be invested directly in hospitals.Bendigo’s Free Choice Tobacconist Wholesaler in the Hargreaves Mall was yesterday closed for stocktaking, but supermarkets reported a rise in sales.Woolworths senior media manager Benedict Brook said cigarette sales were above average yesterday.“There has been anecdotal evidence of people buying a couple of packets extra,” he said.“We didn’t know until everybody else did, so we weren’t expecting anything.“So far there has not been a huge increase, but people are buying maybe three or four packets instead of one.”The tax increase will see cigarette prices go up by about $2.16 for a pack of 30.Under the plan, internet advertising of cigarettes will also be restricted.An extra $27.8 million will be spent on anti-smoking campaigns, and tobacco companies will be forced to use plain packaging from July 1, 2012.Bendigo resident Josh Allan said the new tax would be an incentive for smokers, including himself, to quit.“It would be an incentive for me for sure,” he said.Kylie Gellel, also of Bendigo, said she was on her way to the chemist to buy nicotine patches.“I’m doing my best to quit,” she said.Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said new branding would be the most hardline regime in the world and cigarette companies would “hate” it.