Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Hiding cigarettes in supermarkets 'PC-madness'

Staff put cigarettes in bags. Photo / Michael Craig
Staff put cigarettes in bags. Photo / Michael Craig

Cigarette smokers are being made to feel "dirty" as one of our biggest supermarket chains takes the fight against tobacco to a new level.

Foodstuffs - the operators of supermarket chains Pak'n Save, New World and Four Square - has asked Auckland staff to hide packets of cigarettes in plastic bags before handing them to customers - so non-smokers never have to see them in-store.

A law came into effect last month banning tobacco retailers from displaying cigarettes and tobacco packs to the public. Most are now hidden from view in white cupboards behind the counter.

Under the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act, tobacco prices can also no longer be openly displayed and businesses cannot trade with names that advertise tobacco.

But Foodstuffs has taken matters a step further at their Auckland-wide network of stores. When someone asks for a packet of cigarettes, the checkout assistant walks a few metres to the cabinet and hides them in a plastic bag before bringing them out of the cupboard, keeping the pack out of sight of other people.

Foodstuffs confirmed the company brought in the new cigs-in-a-bag measure themselves.

"New regulations mean our cigarettes are now stored in secure cabinets but the company decided to introduce its own measures across the stores that mean no one can actually see the cigarettes," a Foodstuffs spokesman said.

Rivals, Progressive Enterprises, owners of supermarket chain Countdown, insist they won't be following suit.

"We abide by all the new regulations and spent a long time discussing these with the Ministry of Health, but we have no plans at the moment to take further measures to keep cigarettes out of view," a spokesman for Progressive said.

However, many smokers are baffled by the move at the other supermarkets.

"Being handed a pack of cigarettes hidden in a bag makes me feel dirty," said one New World customer, a smoker who declined to be named.

"It is just another example of PC-madness."

The move is another blow for tobacco companies who have vowed to fight the Government's bid to cut smoking rates through higher taxes and ever stronger measures.

- Herald on Sunday

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