Prime Minister John Key says a National Government is unlikely to ban smoking, despite it being a policy of its support partner the Maori Party.
The Maori Party wants to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.
The policy has been pushed by co-leader Tariana Turia, who is also the Associate Health Minister.
Under new laws coming into effect today, tobacco products can no longer be displayed in public view in retail outlets, including dairies, supermarkets and petrol stations.
Mrs Turia is also today releasing a consultation document for the Government's next move to curb smoking - plain packaging.
Mr Key this morning said the Government was unlikely to ever ban smoking because it would be "tremendously difficult".
"Effectively you'd be saying cigarettes are a banned substance in New Zealand," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
"Then you'd have to deal with different international environments, such as tourists that come from Singapore."
Mr Key said the Government wanted to discourage smoking by highlighting its health implications and ensuring that support was available.
From today, retailers including dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets are banned from displaying cigarettes and tobacco products. They must be hidden in white cupboards behind the counter, prices can no longer be openly displayed, and businesses cannot trade with names that advertise tobacco.
Retailers failing to comply with the changes, under the Government's Smokefree Environments Amendment Act, risk a fine of up to $10,000.
However, some say the changes will not deter smokers and will have the knock-on effect of exposing shop staff to greater risk from shoplifters and robbers.
Association of Convenience Stores chairman Roger Bull said he was unhappy that retailers were given little warning of the new regulations by the Health Ministry. They were given guidelines just 12 days beforehand.
"Retailers were still left wondering exactly how the regulations would allow them to manage a major product category in their shops, that in some cases is vital for their economic survival," Mr Bull said.
One Nelson retail outlet was hurriedly covering up its display of cigarettes and tobacco products this morning after the Nelson Mail visited. Other retailers visited had tobacco products hidden from sight, but it was not making any difference to some customers.
Nelson smoker Lyell Sheddan said he would continue with his habit of two packets of tobacco a week, despite the display changes.
The main difference would hopefully be among children, with tobacco products no longer visible to them, he said.
"It still comes back to an individual decision. I would hope my kids aren't going to smoke because of how they've been brought up."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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