If you're heading to the dairy to buy cigarettes this morning, you won't find an array of products to greet you.
A law that came into effect today has banned tobacco retailers from displaying cigarettes and tobacco packs to the public, with most now hidden from view in white cupboards behind the counter.
But retailers say it will not deter smokers and will have the knock-on effect of exposing staff to greater risk from shoplifters and robbers.
Under the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act, tobacco cannot be visible to the public in stores, prices can no longer be openly displayed and businesses cannot trade with names that advertise tobacco.
Nic Nacs on Cuba Street owner Mahesh Patel said the new law was just another hassle for retailers already struggling with declining sales.
"I think it's ridiculous and not practical. It's not fair."
He would not only lose revenue, but there was greater risk of shoplifting while backs were turned to open the cigarette cupboard for customers.
Hiding the range of cigarette products would not deter smokers since most regulars would buy cigarettes whether they could see them or not, he said. Increasing prices would be the only deterrent.
Customer Brad Murphy, 34, was at the shop yesterday buying a packet of Dunhill Reds. "It won't affect me," he said. "I have been smoking Dunhill Reds for 17 years. I know what I want."
But he thought the law was a good thing in that it gave fewer temptations to younger consumers.
In Christchurch, Pannell Discounter employee Sharon Matthews said about 80 per cent of customers bought cigarettes and she did not think the new measures would make any difference to sales. "People know what they smoke and they know we have got it."
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia has been the driving force behind the aim for a smokefree country by 2025.
“Removing tobacco displays from stores means the products won't be visible to the public," she said.
"This will help to protect our children and those who are attempting to quit smoking from being confronted with tobacco marketing when they do their everyday shopping.”
District health board smokefree officers would be in charge of enforcing the retail display law and ensuring that retailers understand their obligations.
Those that chose to flout the law would be liable to prosecution and a fine of up to $10,000, Mrs Turia said. The next step under the act would be to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes.
New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores chairman Roger Bull said the tobacco display law meant longer transaction times, more time training staff and increased risks of store theft as retailers searched out tobacco brands for customers. Many retailers were also left wondering exactly how the regulations would work, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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