Former pack-a-day smoker Peter Grindrod has embraced a growing trend towards swapping traditional cigarettes for the cheaper electronic version. Mr Grindrod, who owns Mount Maunganui’s Tay Street Dairy, said some smokers were dodging the January 1 price hike by spending $30 to $40 a week on e-cigarettes compared with $100 on the real thing. Mr Grindrod, who made the switch 10 months ago, said one e-cigarette, offering 500 puffs, was equivalent to a normal packet of 20 cigarettes.
“Once I get them on to it people are going ‘they’re amazing’. The old ones (e-cigarettes) you used to have to suck like a P addict to get anything out of it,” he said.
Manager of Tauranga’s Tobacco Discounter Mike Lawrence said sales of e-cigarettes were on the speedy increase.
By 4.30pm yesterday he had sold five starter packs worth $79 each, 18 e-cigarettes and two packets of cartridges.
“It’s insane is pretty much the word I can use,” he said.
Mr Lawrence said most customers were buying e-cigarettes in a bid to stop smoking altogether and slowly reduce the level of nicotine in their cartridges.
“They’re using these as their medium to get away from all the chemicals that come in a tailor-made cigarette.”
Greerton Super Liquor owner Doug Harvie agreed the sale of e-cigarettes seemed to be gaining in popularity.
“There are people that are trying to give up that are using them,” he said.
Mr Harvie said he had one customer who had bought e-cigarettes for the staff at his engineering workshop who kept working while they smoked rather than taking a string of cigarette breaks.
Manager Melissa Harvie said a number of customers had commented on the efficiency of the e-cigarettes.
“You can have a couple of puffs and get your hit and that’s where you stop.”
A staff member at Bottle Zone in Ohauiti said a lot of people were trying to stop at the moment because the sale of e-cigarettes had increased.
One “softie”, as they were known, costs $14.50 and offered 500 puffs, she said. “If you’re trying to stop or you’re just trying to back off on cigarettes a bit it does help.”
Some customers who had previously bought two packets of cigarettes had also dropped down to one.
“I think it’s the price, it’s just getting far too expensive for people. If you’re smoking a pack a day it’s a lot of money,” she said.
Owner of Grange Road Dairy Craig Thorburn said four or five customers who regularly bought cigarettes had switched to the electronic version over the past couple of weeks.
“They’re going pretty good. There’s about four or five locals around here that were pretty heavy smokers and they’ve all gone on to these softies trying to quit,” he said.
Mr Thorburn said others had gone cold turkey, with some opting to replace cigarettes with pies and chocolate. He expected the true impact of the latest price rise to be seen next month when everyone had gone back to work.
“When they’re in holiday mode people just grab it and they don’t really think. I’m picking that the reality will hit in about February,” he said.
With the cheapest packet of cigarettes now costing about $13, Mr Thorburn said some customers were commenting that they should kick the habit.
Tina Gillgren, who works at Maleme Street Lunch Box in Greerton, said she had definitely seen a decrease in the number of people buying 50g packets of tobacco.
“I’ve actually noticed a few people have said they’re actually quitting.”
She said most people were going cold turkey or getting medication to stop smoking from their GP. While they stocked electronic cigarettes she said sales were very slow.
“I’ve had a few people say they’ve tried them and it doesn’t really taste good,” she said.