Calls to ban cigarette sales from dairies and areas near schools are no different to the crusade against legal highs, a Masterton health expert says.
New research, conducted by the Cancer Society social and behavioural research unit at Otago University, is the first to look at the location of tobacco retailers around the country.
The study found that almost half of all New Zealand secondary schools are within 500 metres of a shop that sells tobacco.
Tobacco was also more easily accessed in poorer neighbourhoods - contributing to higher smoking rates among "socioeconomically disadvantaged" groups.
"This widespread availability makes it harder for people to quit smoking and easier for new smokers to take up the habit," the report said.
Whaiora Medical Centre quit smoking coach Victoria Te Tau said restrictions on tobacco sales would help young people stay smokefree.
"Tobacco is a lethal product. We know it causes illness and premature death - there is no safe dose.
"Dairies are no longer allowed to sell "legal high" drugs so restrictions on tobacco are a similar concept - except we've known about the harm of tobacco for much longer."
Any measures to reduce smoking, especially among young people, should be welcomed, Ms Te Tau said.
It was rare for adults to take up smoking and the average age to start smoking in New Zealand was 14.
The move to hide tobacco displays had already had a positive impact, and feedback from local clients showed that not seeing tobacco reduced cravings, she said.
According to the research, despite legally having to be 18 to buy tobacco, a third of minors still get their hands on cigarettes from commercial sources.
The researchers want the Government to introduce a "comprehensive" range of tobacco control measures, including licensing for all tobacco retailers.
Other options include banning some types of shops, like dairies, from selling tobacco and prohibiting tobacco sales in certain zones, such as near schools.
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," Convenience Stores association chairman Roger Bull said. Tobacco controls were already strict he said. APNZ