Smokers brace for price hikes

Prices for some of the most popular cigarette brands in Austria will increase from next year, it has emerged.Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which manages Austrian tobacco maker Austria Tabak, announced today (Weds) that its product range will get more expensive from next month. JTI said the unit price for a packet of Memphis, Smart, Camel and Meine Sorte will rise by 20 Eurocents as of 1 January.This announcement comes just days after JTI’s main rival, the Imperial Tobacco Group, upped the prices for its cigarettes on sale in Austria by up to 20 Eurocents. The company’s price hike came into effect on 1 December. Imperial Tobacco Group’s product range includes Gauloises Blondes, Peter Stuyvesant and Ernte 23.Both increases are understood to be a reaction to the Austrian government’s decision to charge tobacco products with higher taxes from next year. British American Tobacco, a smaller competitor, is expected to follow by raising its price levels soon, while Philip Morris refused to reveal whether it planned to react to the tobacco tax increase.West is the only main player on the Austrian cigarettes market which does not plan to up its prices. The company said the decision is based on the hope to “keep price-sensitive customers”. West’s portfolio includes Davidoff and Lambert & Butler cigarettes.The Social Democrats (SPÖ) of Chancellor Werner Faymann and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) headed by Finance Minister Josef Pröll said they were confident that revenue from tobacco tax will increase by 100 million Euros year on year in 2011.The decision to increase the tax on tobacco products is just one aspect in a whole package of austerity measures to be carried out by the coalition over the coming three years in a bid to reduce the budget deficit.JTI’s decision to raise prices means one packet of Camel cigarettes will cost 4.10 Euros instead of 3.90 Euros from next year, while the unit price for Meine Sorte soars to 4.20 Euros. One pack of 20 Smart cigarettes will cost 3.65 Euros.Walter Sattlberger, a spokesman for Austria Tabak, said today that the government’s hopes of raking in an additional 100 million Euros in 2011 and 150 million Euros after another tax increase the following year were nothing but “wishful thinking”.People’s Party (ÖVP) Financial Affairs State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said recently that 46.4 million illegal cigarettes were confiscated in Austria 2009, up by one million year on year.Austrian smokers consume more cigarettes than the European Union (EU) average, it has been revealed.The European Commission (EC) said today (Mon) that its Eurobarometer survey found that 41 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men in Austria smoke. Another result of the study is that Austrian smokers’ daily dose is an average 18 cigarettes, while the average smoker in the EU needs 14 cigarettes a day.The Eurobarometer research also showed that 18 per cent of EU citizens and 23 per cent of Austrians think that products which feature words such as “blue”, “natural” and “silver” in their names would pose less risk to one’s health.The EC conducted the survey to mark today’s World No Tobacco Day which is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe.Austria was recently revealed as having one of the highest percentages of teens drinking and smoking in the world.The Austrian government meanwhile launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of smuggled tobacco products.People’s Party (ÖVP) Financial Affairs State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said almost 50 million illegal cigarettes had been confiscated in Austria last year. He stressed that illegal cigarettes could pose a higher threat to health than legally traded and sold products, adding that buying smuggled tobacco products supports organised crime.The government’s awareness campaign features posters showing a smoker saying “Josef K. enjoys rat poison!”.