Smokers in Honiara are complaining about the increase in the price of cigarettes in town, which many say they only noticed early this month.A quick check around retail shops in Honiara has shown that prices of cigarettes have indeed increased. A packet of Winfield Blue, which used to cost SBD$17 is now SBD$23 in most shops. Single cigarettes now cost SBD$1.50, up from SBD$1.00 just a month ago.
Many are questioning the cause of the increase. "Fuel prices have been very low for some time, so using shipping cost as excuse is a lie," said Chad Ligoua, a betel nut vendor, who has been forced to push up his prices as well. "There was also no announcement of a cigarette tax increase which makes it unusual."
The price control unit when contacted said that they are not aware of the increase. They also acknowledge that the current selling price is well above the recommended price. The Solomon Tobacco could not be reached for comments.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Finance, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he would not be surprised if there has been an increase in tax. "With the current cash flow problems we face, it will be tempting for the government to push up the tax rate on such goods," he said. "If it was a tax increase then we should expect a formal announcement from the government soon."