Cigarette sales under fire

By Cassandra Mason

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Phil Boyte says he would have to shut down if a proposed idea to ban cigarettes from dairies near schools went ahead.  Photo / George Novak
Phil Boyte says he would have to shut down if a proposed idea to ban cigarettes from dairies near schools went ahead. Photo / George Novak

There is a push for a ban on shops selling cigarettes near schools.

The move comes as research reveals nearly half of all secondary schools are within 500m of a shop that sells tobacco.

The study also found that despite legally having to be 18 to buy tobacco, a third of minors get cigarettes from commercial sources.

"This widespread availability makes it harder for people to quit smoking and easier for new smokers to take up the habit," the report said.

The Cancer Society and Otago University conducted the study examining the location of tobacco retailers - the first of its kind in New Zealand.

The researchers want the Government to introduce a "comprehensive" range of control measures, including licensing for all tobacco retailers. Other options include banning some types of shops, such as dairies, from selling tobacco and ending tobacco sales in some zones, such as near schools.

Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon told the Bay of Plenty Times he was "100 per cent" behind any measures to make it more difficult for students to buy tobacco.

"I'm absolutely anti-smoking. Schools are smoke-free environments so we work to oppose [smoking] rigidly," Mr Gordon said.

Surveillance cameras deterred students from smoking at school, but this did not mean they were not smoking outside the grounds.

The argument that small businesses would suffer under proposed restrictions was similar to the case for the sale of legal highs. "While I would sympathise that, yes, they are going to lose income ... the community benefit far outweighs any potential loss of profit that that individual business may suffer.

"That kind of economic argument does make me angry because we're not naturally born with the propensity to smoke, we're introduced to it."

Other Western Bay principals could not be contacted last night.

But retailers have lashed out at the recommendations, saying the findings border on "conspiracy theories".

"Yet again we are seeing tobacco control activists out of Otago University lobbying the Government for another whack on New Zealand retailers," New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores chairman Roger Bull said.

In 14th Ave, dairy owner Phil Boyte said he would be out of business if the proposal went ahead. He said cigarettes were a vital part of his trade and despite Government imposed restrictions on their visibility, he had not experienced any reduction in sales.

Mr Boyte said he relied on cigarette sales to keep his business going. "If they carried on with a ban it would be two-fold.

"The business just wouldn't be viable. I think I would have a lot of trouble selling the business. That would be a very grey day for me."

Tobacco controls were already strict, with products hidden behind doors and only available to people over 18, he said.

Bay of Plenty MP and Health Minister Tony Ryall said he did not think there was any need to further restrict tobacco sales.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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