Researchers says chemists should sell cigarettes, but pharmacists disagree
Selling cigarettes as restricted items in pharmacies is not the answer to dairy owners' crime fears, chemists say.
Tobacco-control experts say selling cigarettes in adult stores, or even pharmacies, was preferable to reduce people's access, new research published by University of Otago academics shows.
But pharmacists say selling cigarettes would be a conflict for them and would increase risks to their own safety and security.
The proposal comes after Police Minister Paula Bennett announced a $1.8m funding package to bolster security at dairies and superettes.
High-risk stores identified by police would be invited to apply for grants which would see the Crown pay half for security measures like safes, fog cannons, and panic alarms.
Dairy owners have blamed rising tobacco costs for increasing desperation among smokers, prompting more aggravated robberies of their businesses.
Auckland dairy owner Shantilal Prema said the security measures wouldn't stop workers from being harmed, or even killed, by robbers who were increasingly arming themselves to threaten workers.
Weeks ago his staff was threatened with a machete, an incident that unfolded in under a minute, he said.
Prema suggested tobacco vending machines were a better way to sell cigarettes.
It was unlikely someone would take the vending machine, he said, and it redirected the attention away from staff who are often required to fetch cigarettes from behind counters.
Pharmacists don't want cigarettes in their stores either.
Unichem Peninsula Pharmacy owner Fiona Grove said the suggestion that chemists could sell tobacco was a "complete oxymoron".
"My first reaction was that it seems completely against what we're trying to achieve in terms of public health care," she said.
"I appreciate that dairy owners are vulnerable but I just feel that there needs to be a different solution and I'm really not sure at this stage what that is.
"I think something needs to be done and while I applaud their doing research and really looking at how we can achieve that non-smoking goal by 2025, I just don't think pharmacies are the correct solution."
Introducing cigarettes into stock would make staff as vulnerable as when pseudoephedrine became a restricted drug, she said.
Her store had previously been the victim of a holdup by someone looking for the precursor substance typically used to make methamphetamine,which Grove said was "frightening".
Another pharmacist, who declined to be named, said chemists would be required to take the names and details of people buying cigarettes if tobacco became a restricted item.
That would mean extra work for little profit, they said.
Tobacco research leader Lindsay Robertson said although the idea was "unusual", it had "some merits".
"It would send the message that tobacco isn't an everyday grocery product and that it does need more regulation around how it is made available to people.
"It would mean people who buy tobacco could receive some cessation support from pharmacies," she said.
"Pharmacists also have a duty of care, and therefore we'd be highly unlikely to see tobacco sales to minors. Sales to minors are still quite prevalent, and tend to occur at dairies and convenience stores."
It would also be a method of substantially reducing the number of shops that sell tobacco, which could reduce demand, she said.