Retailers uncertain about hidden tobacco

OUT OF SIGHT: Mountainview Dairy owner-operator Joy Hutson gets ready for the new rules banning the public display of tobacco and advertising.
OUT OF SIGHT: Mountainview Dairy owner-operator Joy Hutson gets ready for the new rules banning the public display of tobacco and advertising.

The shutters will go up on tobacco displays in dairies from the end of next week, but most are unsure what the change will mean for them.

Changes to the Smokefree-Free Environments Act mean that all stores, including dairies, petrol stations and tobacconist, would be banned from displaying tobacco images from July 22.

When the Herald spoke to some of the local dairy-owners about the changes, most were unsure what the impact would be for their tobacco sales, or the logistics of the display.

Mountainview Dairy owner-operator Joy Hutson said Imperial Tobacco had provided the store with ready-made closed display cabinets, as well as a list of available products.

"It means we don't have to pay for the costs of the new cabinets," she said.

"But it is going to be a bit of a hassle, logistically. You're not allowed to advertise that you sell cigarettes, but that won't stop people wanting to buy them.''

Ms Hutson said the new displays will have self-closing doors, therefore keeping the product out of clear view from the customers.

"That's going to be the major change. People can no longer see what they're going to buy," she said.

Ms Hutson questioned whether the changes would actually discourage younger people from smoking.

"If anything, it might make it seem even more appealing," she said.

Star Dairy in Church St co-owner Paddy Patel said he was expecting the new display cabinets to come any day soon, but at the moment, the store will hide the cigarettes behind shutters.

"Most of our customers are used to that already," he said.

"We're still selling tobacco."

Local tobacconist and barber Murray Gibson, who along with an organisation supported by Imperial Tobacco has campaigned against similar moves in the past, was resigned to the changes.

"They bring in new changes every other year. There's nothing we can do about them."

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Alistair Humphrey said moves to make tobacco less visible could only lead to decreased smoking rates.

"The more out of sight it is, the more out of mind," he said.

"If tobacco were a new product, I doubt it would be legal. More New Zealanders die from the effects of this product than any other."

Dr Humphrey said smoking rates were higher among poorer constituents, which the tobacco companies cynically targeted.

"Measures such as these new regulations will go some way to bringing down the rates, but the most effective means is through strong hikes to excise tax on tobacco to the point where eventually people will just have to stop," he said.

"Back in the day, governments used to only make small increases every year, until they realised the long-term costs that smoking had on our health system."

The Timaru Herald