Tauranga dairy owners say their income would go up in smoke if calls to ban the retail sale of cigarettes was enforced.
One owner said half their weekly income was from tobacco sales, while another dairy worker said people were buying cheaper cigarettes rather than quitting.
This comes as the price of tobacco was hiked 11.4 per cent when the New Year ticked over.
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Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora is calling for tobacco to be phased out from dairies to reduce the safety risk to dairies and smoking-related illness.
Mihi Blair, general manager of the national tobacco control advocacy service at Hāpai Te Hauora, said in a written statement the organisation supported "restricting tobacco sales to fewer, more heavily regulated outlets with the end goal being no retail sales at all".
This would "de-normalise smoking" and reduce smoking rates, while making dairies less of a target for criminals.
Meanwhile, two Tauranga dairy owners, who both wished to remain anonymous, said their businesses would be affected if tobacco products were banned.
One said his shop sales totalled about $10,000 a week and about half of that was from cigarette sales.
Only a small margin was made on the sales as the real money maker was the add-on purchases that customers made, he said.
"There's a supermarket on every corner where most items are cheaper. Customers will come in to buy cigarettes but they will also buy lollies and a drink."
But he said he was not opposed to banning the sale of cigarettes.
He said if cigarettes were ever banned, small businesses would need support and advice to help navigate the aftermath.
Another dairy owner said the number of robberies where cigarettes were targetted had increased in the last two or three years, but tobacco sales made up a sizable amount of the shop's profit which was worth the risk.
"We're not worried about people stealing cigarettes as insurance can cover the cost, but we are worried about being hurt [during a robbery]," he said.
A worker at Arataki Superette, who wished to be known as Trevor, said it was a "debatable topic" as it brought in money but dairy owners were conscious about the health impacts of cigarettes.
He said the "skyrocketing price" of cigarettes did not prompt many people to quit smoking.
"People are buying cheaper cigarettes rather than quitting," he said.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said tobacco consumption per capita had reduced by almost 40 per cent in the past nine years when annual 10 per cent tobacco excise increases have been applied.
The spokesperson said a 2018 report showed increasing the price of tobacco continued to be the single most effective tool for reducing tobacco use, but better support was needed for smokers finding it hard to quit.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board population health portfolio manager, Sarah Stevenson, said in the last three years there had been an increase in referral rates to Hapainga, the free Stop Smoking Service.
Stevenson said restricting the availability of tobacco outlets would have different impacts throughout the district due to the diverse population.
"If you can only purchase tobacco products in major supermarkets, this will impact rural areas that do not have a major supermarket," she said.
"If the restriction is limited to only dairies being able to sell tobacco products there may be purchasing behaviour change in larger towns."
The DHB was in the final stages of submitting a five-year smokefree plan to the Ministry of Health.
A police spokesperson said cigarettes and tobacco were a desirable item for thieves as they are easily transportable and often on-sold quickly.
"Police are aware of the significant impact robberies, including dairy robberies, can have on victims and we are determined to continue working to help bring offenders to account."
Want to quit smoking?
Contact the Bay of Plenty stop smoking service Hāpainga on 0800 427 246.