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Heart Foundation proposes licensing tobacco retailers

Palmerston North is being challenged to be the first city in New Zealand to licence tobacco retailers, and ban sales at dairies, supermarkets and liquor stores within 1 kilometre of schools.

Heart Foundation Manawatu heart health advocate Sally Darragh told a city council submissions hearing on Tuesday it could introduce a bylaw.

She believed it was empowered to do so under the Local Government Act in the interests of protecting public health.

Darragh said the council had already taken positive action to reduce smoking and the harm caused through tobacco.

She applauded its smokefree outdoor policy and work currently being considered about discouraging smoking outside cafes and bars.

But more was needed in order to reach New Zealand’s goal of a smokefree community where less than 5 per cent of the population smoked by 2025.

If tobacco sales licensing was introduced, it would help ensure retailers were complying with regulations, such as storing tobacco products out of sight and not selling to people aged under 18.

The council could also impose some other restrictions to reduce the availability of tobacco.

Her recommendations were that retailers would pay a fee for their licence, that tobacco could not be sold within 1 kilometre of a school, and could not be sold where alcohol was sold.

Darragh said controlling the supply of tobacco had to be part of the plan to discourage smoking.

“At the moment, it can be sold by anyone. Yet it is a dangerous and addictive drug.”

She said the exclusion zone around schools would discourage teenagers from buying smokes during their breaks, and severing the link between alcohol and smoking would support people trying to quit.

Darragh said licensing would ensure health authorities knew where tobacco was being sold so they could more easily check the rules were adhered to.

It would also provide a meaningful penalty, of losing the licence, if retailers did not comply.

She hoped it would reduce the clustering of tobacco outlets in poor areas where smoking rates tended to be highest.

Darragh said there was no central government move, yet, to consider licensing.

“It would be good to have this council’s leadership. No other councils are considering it.

“You would the first, but I think you are up to it.”

Tobacconist Richard Green, who disputes the claim that smoking causes cancer, said councillors should treat the submission with the disdain it deserved.

He said the exclusion zone around schools, together with a ban for anyone selling alcohol, would affect almost every retailer, dairy and supermarket in the city.

“It’s over the top.”

He said previous moves to hide cigarette displays had made no difference to smoking rates.

Repeated price increases did nothing but see children living in poverty going to school without lunch.

“People will smoke no matter what.”

He said it would drive tobacco sales underground, more people would grow their own, and tourists who smoked would avoid New Zealand.

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