Ciggie sales over

By hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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Attacks spur shop to stop selling smokes

RISKY BUSINESS: Sue Sullivan of Kitchener's Cafe and Dairy in Martinborough, which quit selling cigarettes last month. When the Sullivans bought the store 20 years ago, the wall behind Mrs Sullivan was filled with cabinets "jam-packed" with cigarettes for sale, as was the counter. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
RISKY BUSINESS: Sue Sullivan of Kitchener's Cafe and Dairy in Martinborough, which quit selling cigarettes last month. When the Sullivans bought the store 20 years ago, the wall behind Mrs Sullivan was filled with cabinets "jam-packed" with cigarettes for sale, as was the counter. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

ONE Martinborough dairy has quit selling cigarettes in a bid to feel safer after a run of attacks on stores.

Over the last five years, Kitchener's Cafe and Dairy has been broken into three times and in each case cigarettes were the target.

But last month the store owners, Sue and Bruce Sullivan, gave up trading tobacco, hoping to minimise their risk of future break-ins.

Mrs Sullivan said cigarettes were becoming more sought after by criminals as tobacco prices hiked up.

She said the decision had been spurred on by a recent spate of burglaries in Martinborough and stories in the media of nasty attacks around the country.

"I heard the news about the lady in Auckland who was nearly battered to death by six teenage girls for the cigarettes in her shop. That struck a big chord with me, I thought that could have been me.

"Then the following day some young guys drove through doors in a shop like mine in Auckland to get their cigarettes. Again, I thought that could've been us," Mrs Sullivan said.

"Once I had that realisation, I felt endangered having cigarettes in our shop.

"At the same time we were having a huge spate of burglaries here in Martinborough, and I thought 'I don't want to be a victim'."

The store opens at 2.30am during winter months to serve workers mainly in the agricultural, forestry and roading industries. The couple have owned the business for 20 years and their decision to give up selling tobacco has been received positively by the community.

"Even the cigarette buyers are positive about it," Mrs Sullivan said.

She now felt safer at work, and with the business making just 60c profit on every packet of smokes sold, the risk did not outweigh the benefit.

When the couple bought the store, "cigarettes were $2 a pack". Back then the business was spending $4500 on tobacco a week to keep up with demand.

Mrs Sullivan said the counter had been "jam-packed" with cigarettes, as had the wall behind the counter which had been lined with cabinets stocked solely with tobacco.

"By the time we stopped selling them last month, with cigarettes being close to $30 a pack, our turnover was down to just over $1000 a week."

She said the harder it was for people to buy cigarettes, the better.

"They shouldn't be convenient and they shouldn't be normalised, with parents buying them along with lollies for the kids," she said.

"I don't think they should be totally banned. You're always going to get people who want to smoke no matter how expensive they are.

"But for safety's sake to the people who are vending them, they should be limited to a single outlet in the district.

"Instead of being convenient, they should be inconvenient."

On Sunday, two masked burglars broke into the P&K Supermarket, jemmying open a rear door before stealing an entire cabinet's stock of cigarettes.

It was the third break-in at the store in 18 months.

Then earlier this week, Masterton police chased down a burglar fleeing the Solway Caltex after the man allegedly smashed his way into the station and made off with about 200 packets of cigarettes.

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