Licensing on cards for tobacco sellers

By Brendan Manning

A registration or licensing system for tobacco retailers would be another step towards the nationwide goal of a smoke-free country by 2025, a local quit-smoking 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.

Whaiora Quit Smoking services team leader Adam Bain said as New Zealand moved toward the goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025, registering or licensing tobacco retailers could "only be a positive".

"We would fully support that. The more regulation you have, then obviously the better controlled the environment."

Ash said a register would simplify and enhance 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 delicensing shops that illegally sold cigarettes to people aged under 18.

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

Tobacco registration systems currently exist in Ireland and Scotland, while licensing is in place in five Australian states, in Singapore, Canada and 39 states of the United States.

Ash spokesman Michael Colhoun said it was remarkable that people perceived tobacco to be a heavily regulated product, when in reality it was not.

"Liquor obviously has a licensing system.

"We'd like to see similar controls on tobacco."

There were no restrictions around who could sell tobacco and where, Mr Colhoun said.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia has said a ban on smoking in cars with children was also under consideration.

Several jurisdictions in Australia and the US have already banned the practice.

A ban has existed in South Australia for nearly four years. Smoking in vehicles in the presence of people under 16 can result in a fine of A$75 ($90) and if it proceeds to court, A$200.

A parliamentary bill increasing the price of cigarettes to more than $20 a pack over the next four years was passed last year.

The legislation will raise tobacco excise tax by 10 per cent each year, from 2013 to 2016.

The tax hikes are part of a raft of measures designed to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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