The Government yesterday announced a $1.8 million package to help dairies and convenience stores fight a rise in aggravated robberiers — many targeting cigarettes. This week, Cherie Howie visited dairy owner Saiyad Shah (left) at his shop in Papatoetoe to find out what life’s like when the next person to enter your door might want to hurt you.

Experts are calling for tobacco to be pulled from dairies and instead be sold only by pharmacies or tobacco stores.

New University of Otago research found tobacco needed to be less accessible to achieve the Government's 2025 smoke-free goal.

Lead researcher Dr Lindsay Robertson said the key problems caused by widely sold tobacco included more sales to minors, a greater risk of children using tobacco and undermining smokers' attempts to quit. She said the Government urgently needed to consider the recommendations in the report.

The study consisted of in-depth interviews with 25 experts working in academia, public health, Maori and Pacific health and smoking cessation.

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The participants all agreed there needed to be fewer tobacco outlets in order to discourage smoking and improve the health of the nation.

"Our participants believed that allowing tobacco sales only from a very small number of places - whether an R18 tobacco-only store, or a pharmacist - in each district, and ensuring these outlets were located away from schools, was an important strategy for realising the 2025 goal."

About 546,000 Kiwis smoke daily, 15 per cent of the adult population. Every day, on average, 13 people die from a smoking-related disease - that's 5000 a year.

Half of smokers die from a smoking-related illness and on average their deaths will be 14 years earlier than if they didn't smoke.

In March 2011 the Government adopted the Smokefree 2025 goal for New Zealand.

Senior adviser for Hapai Te Hauora, a Maori public health provider, Stephanie Erick backed the report. She said about 8000 outlets currently sold tobacco in New Zealand but if that was reduced people would be put off by the effort.

"It's unbelievable the accessibility to that product. We can hide them in cupboards but if you can just walk down the road and access a packet then that's an issue.

"Around 80 per cent of smokers regret ever smoking ... Our communities are the ones that are driving us. More and more communities want to be smoke-free."

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Cancer Society spokesman Shayne Nahu supported the research. He believed the restriction would reduce the number of children who started smoking.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the party supported any initiative to make it harder for people to start smoking or easier to quit.

"Reducing the availability of cigarettes and tobacco and licensing outlets will help achieve that goal."

The NZ Defence Force's plan to ban the sale of tobacco on camps and bases should be an example for others to follow, she said.

A Philip Morris spokesman said the company supported measures to achieve a smoke-free New Zealand. He said part of the solution was to swap smokers to smoke-free alternatives, like e-cigarettes.

"Millions of people around the world have stopped smoking by switching to these products and we believe that allowing better alternatives for smokers can contribute to New Zealand's goal of achieving a [smoke-free] future."

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While the study's findings were aimed at improving health, the safety of tobacco retailers is front of mind for many given the spate of dairy robberies.

Julie's Pharmacy owner Zuber Patel said selling tobacco at pharmacies would put the stores at risk of break-ins so increased security would be needed. He imagined it would be similar to the days when they sold pseudoephedrine when he had two robberies.

However, Patel believed pharmacies would be able to implement a system that controlled the sale of tobacco. He said they could treat it like other drugs where the customer would have to answer questions, leave their name, address and show identification.

"We could have systems in place that limit them on the number of packets they buy and refuse to sell them if it's not used properly."

A separate tobacco study found that life expectancy rose following a decrease in tobacco consumption from 1985 to 1995.

The University of Canterbury research found life expectancy for women was 2.8 years greater, for men 3.6 years greater, and was 3.2 years greater for both sexes combined.

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Do you agree with removing cigarettes from dairies?


Daniel Ido, 24

Reducing the convenience would help people cut down. It's worth trying.

Lorenzo Hazel, 19

Some people are going to go crazy if they don't have a cigarette. If you need one you need one. It's your choice if you want to kill yourself or not.

Ayden Geerligs, 19

Dairies will go out of business. I don't think it'd lessen the smokers. It just inconveniences them. They will spend more money on travelling to get cigarettes.

Lyndelle Amadia, 47

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I'm an ex-smoker and I agree. It'll stop the crime and the underground black market for them. The more control on cigarettes the better.