It's been just over a year since Joe and Taryn Taurima stopped selling tobacco products at their Omapere g.a.s. service station in Northland, but they have no regrets despite losing customers and half a million dollars in annual turnover.

"No regrets. Smoking sucks. My wife and I have always hated it," Joe Taurima told the Herald.

They decided to take a moral stance and stop selling tobacco just before Christmas 2016.

"The worst thing was that people here come in, get bread and milk and want a packet of smokes. And when their card gets declined, they put the bread and milk away, and they buy the smokes," Joe Taurima said.


"And their kids will be there starving. That's what I hated. That's why we are proud of what we've done. We don't want to be part of that.

"A community like this has a high population of Maori, and poor Maori, we don't want to contribute to things that get our people down. Most businesses in the area are locally owned and they all support us because they understand what it's like for our people."

He said stubbing out tobacco meant losing half a million dollars in turnover.

"That's the downside and we knew that was going to happen. But gross profit wise it's been better because we have put a lot more time into other products.

"A lot of customers get angry that we don't have smokes, but we tell them that we're proud. Losing customers, but we don't care. Nine times out of 10, the feedback is positive."

Taurima said the moral stance has also seen him gain customers who decided to support the business.

"Now they come in to buy fuel just to support us for doing a good thing for the community."

One supporter was Green MP Marama Davidson, who showed her support for the store on Twitter.


"We enjoy supporting the Omapere Gas Station for their decision not to sell tobacco," Davidson said.

Taurima said he wanted other local shops the follow his lead.

"It would be awesome if everyone went smokefree in the Hokianga. I tell other store owners that they don't need to have smokes to get people in the door."

A silver lining was that the store was not a target for robberies.

"We're the only ones here who haven't had any trouble whatsoever, and these other shops are spending thousands on security, and people get in anyway - and it's going to get worse with the price hike."

Excise tax on tobacco went up on January 1, the second of four annual 10 per cent increases that will see a packet of cigarettes this year costing about $27 to $30.


Their tobacco ban has been applauded by the Northland District Health Board.

Smokefree adviser Bridget Rowse has called it a brave move for the Omapere Hokianga area, which had one of the country's highest smoking rates: 34 per cent of adults compared to 19.1 per cent in Northland, and 15 per cent nationally.

The Taurima's business has been presented with a Tobacco-free Retailer Award by Northland District Health Board and Cancer Society Northland.