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Cut-price cigarettes ‘reprehensible’ say anti-smoking advocates

March 31, 2016
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6447342961_9f2f421e44_zColes, IGA and Foodworks stores are selling cut-price premium brand cigarettes imported from Ukraine for as low as $20 a packet, in a move described by antismoking advocates as ‘‘ reprehensible’’ .

In recent weeks, Fairfax Media has bought cigarettes from Imperial Tobacco’s line of brands that are from two countries of origin – New Zealand and Ukraine.

The Ukrainian-made Imperial Tobacco cigarettes range between $3 and $6 cheaper than the company’s cigarettes made in New Zealand, depending on the location of the store and brand.

Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White said the price drop was concerning. ‘‘ Any measure that is trying to make cigarettes cheaper for people to keep them hooked on an addictive product that kills two out of three long-term smokers is reprehensible .

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said high taxes were part of a suite of measures, including advertising bans and education campaigns, the government had in place to help curb smoking.

‘‘ The Australian government would be concerned about any reduction in the price of a packet of cigarettes that may attract young people to take up the habit … but if cigarette companies legitimately bring product into the country and drop the price, unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about that.’’

The brand at the centre of the change is popular, premium brand Peter Stuyvesant Blues. The Ukrainian version is called ‘‘ Peter Stuyvesant Originals Blue’ ’ while the NZ version is dubbed ‘‘ Peter Stuyvesant Classic Blue’’ .

A spokeswoman for Imperial claimed the company had not changed country of import. She denied it had changed its country of import to provide cut-price cigarettes ‘‘ The Ukraine-manufactured product is a brand extension,’’ she said.

Published by: The Age  AGE – Saturday, 26 Mar 2016 – Page 9