Some Rotorua dairy owners fear they will be the ones to bear the brunt of the New Year's Day tobacco price hike with an increase in robberies and violence.

Rotorua's Jewan Preet-Kaur is one of those who knows what it's like to have her life threatened for a packet of cigarettes.

In March last year the Hillcrest Dairy store manager feared for her life when two men armed with hammers robbed her shop.

It was the second time in two months that she had been robbed and now Preet-Kaur believes the increased price of cigarettes will increase robberies.


"I don't feel safe after an increased price of ciggies.

"It affects me, it affects the business."

Preet-Kaur felt apprehensive coming into work in the New Year knowing the price of cigarettes had increased and some people would be disgruntled.

She said some of her customers had not cared that the prices had gone up but those who couldn't afford them could start thinking about alternate ways to feed their addiction.

"Some think, 'why not just rob the shop and get a lot of cigarettes in just five minutes!'"

The store had security measures in place to protect staff including a new alarm because they couldn't afford to stop selling cigarettes.

"Some people ask 'why don't you just stop having ciggies in your shop' but without them we can't survive just on the lollies and drink.

BP spokeswoman Anna Radich said security-related events had increase in recent years.

"We have strong security procedures in place, including limiting the cigarettes we have in stock, and have invested heavily in a range of security measures to ensure people remain safe at our stores."

Her comments come after staff were held at gunpoint at the Te Ngae Rd branch last month.

A police media spokesman said at the time the robbers "made off with cigarettes and cash".

Radich said BP continuously reviewed and evaluated security risks, including cigarette thefts, and took further steps when necessary.

She said BP did not currently plan to remove the sale of cigarettes or cigarette-related products from the stores.

There were at least five other robberies last year, reported by the Rotorua Daily Post, in which the offenders stole or attempted to steal cigarettes.

Many shop owners approached by the Rotorua Daily Post were too nervous to comment publicly but agreed there was an increased risk of violence due to the price increase of cigarettes and said they had done everything they could to stay safe.

Rising tobacco prices are causing shop owners to fear for their lives with increased risk of robberies. Photo / File
Rising tobacco prices are causing shop owners to fear for their lives with increased risk of robberies. Photo / File

Since January 2010, the Government has increased tobacco excise by at least CPI plus 10 per cent each year. The current series of tax increases are scheduled to end in 2020.

New Zealand Taxpayers' Union said it was opposed to the continued annual increases in tobacco taxes.

Executive director Jordan Williams said the union's report from last summer, Up in Smoke: The Social Cost of Tobacco Excise, found that pack-a-day smokers were $3000 worse off each year compared to 2010.

"Tobacco tax increases are becoming less and less effective at reducing smoking rates as the level of tax increases, while predominantly poor communities are put under increased financial pressure.

"Naturally, the burden of tobacco tax is now driving increases in burglaries and robberies to feed the black market."

He said while there was no official data on the number of robberies directly linked to tobacco tax increases, the number of recorded robberies increased by 26.6 per cent between 2014 and 2017, when the report was published.

"And there's been a significant increase in concerns from tobacco retailers. It's quite clear that tobacco tax increases are having an impact on the safety of small shop owners.

Advocacy organisation Crime Prevention Group, which represents dairy, petrol station and shop owners, believed shop owners were fed up with the rising crime attributed to cigarette prices.

President Sunny Kaushal said the rising price of cigarettes had become a motivator for robberies which has resulted in shop owners being fearful of their safety.

"Offenders are finding it an easy target to go to the dairies and attack the owners."

He said the cigarette tax increasing hadn't delivered the objectives that the Government wanted to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

"People are still buying it and compromising buying other stuff so it has opened up a lot more problems than solutions."