Licensed tobacco sellers backed

A registration or licensing system for tobacco retailers is another step towards the nationwide goal of a smoke-free country by 2025, a local smoking-cessation worker says.

The Health Ministry has said it is working on the idea of forcing tobacco retailers to be listed on a state register.

The policy is promoted by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) and British American Tobacco.

Lakes District Health Board smokefree project manager Pip King said the proposal was a good one: "One of our major goals is we want to halve the rate every year of young people taking up smoking and that's going to help us get to the 2025 [smoke-free] goal."

Any initiative that prevented young people from being able to buy cigarettes was a step towards that goal, Ms King said.

"We don't want young people taking up smoking and even if they start, we need to make it harder for people to buy them if they're underage."

Ash said a register would simplify and enhance the enforcement of tobacco control laws.

It is estimated New Zealand has up to 10,000 tobacco retailers.

The licensing system could also provide a potential new penalty by de-licensing shops which illegally sold cigarettes to people aged under 18.

The system could help reduce the number of tobacco outlets by holding an annual auction of a progressively shrinking number of licences.

While the concept of restricting tobacco retailer numbers was floated by an official in a discussion paper on tobacco policy last year, no further policy development work has been done on it.

Tobacco registration systems exist in Ireland and Scotland, while licensing is in place in five Australian states, Singapore, Canada and 39 US states.

ASH spokesman Michael Colhoun said people perceived tobacco to be heavily regulated, when it was not.

"Liquor obviously has a licensing system, we'd like to see similar controls on tobacco. At the moment it would be legal for me to have a boot sale at a marketplace and sell tobacco from the boot of my car, as long as it paid all the taxes."

No restrictions existed on who could sell tobacco and where it could be sold, Mr Colhoun said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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