The prospect of a black market springing up to fill the void of legal tobacco sales if the product is banned has been dismissed at a parliamentary inquiry.

Many people and organisations have asked the Maori affairs select committee's inquiry into tobacco to support an eventual prohibition on tobacco.

Most have not specified how this might be done, but Tairawhiti District Health Board member Brian Wilson suggested at the inquiry's first public hearing, in Rotorua yesterday, that it could be achieved by classifying tobacco under the Misuse of Drugs Act, like methamphetamine.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis, a committee member, said he favoured a total ban on tobacco. But he and National MP Paul Quinn expressed concerns that if the Government prohibited tobacco, this would lead to a black market.

But committee colleague Hone Hara-wira, whose Maori Party instigated the inquiry, said the illegal supply of tobacco would not flourish under prohibition.

"One of the difficulties in banning marijuana and alcohol is that people like marijuana and alcohol. When you ban them you create the circumstances for a black market.

"But with tobacco, the latest survey said 80 per cent of smokers want to stop. So it's difficult to create a black market in an environment where people don't actually want it [tobacco].

"The problem is when you do it [ban tobacco] there has to be a mechanism to allow people who are addicted to try and get off it ... you have to create a mechanism around pharmacies or whatever so people can be weaned off it."

Mr Wilson, a pharmacist who says tobacco is "a poisonous, addictive substance", last year won support from his DHB to lobby the Government to make tobacco available only on prescription.

Yesterday, he urged the setting of a date on which tobacco would be banned. He said that would act as a strong incentive for smokers to quit.

"Our community is close to 50 per cent Maori. Tobacco smoking, of course, affects our community [greatly]."

He said that of the estimated 4500 deaths a year attributed to smoking nationally, about 600 were Maori.