Tobacco products will be hidden and anti-smoking advocates will receive powers immediately fine tobacco shops under tough measures implemented by the Government.
“The Cabinet had signed a package of legislation in order to tighten tobacco controls. I hope that this legislation will be adopted by Parliament before Christmas. In case it will be adopted any tobacco displays will prohibited,” stated associate Health Minister Tariana Turia.
Also smoke-free enforcement officers will have to hand out fines to those retailers who sell tobacco products to under age. The officers were given the power to control pubs with video cameras in 2003.
“There were already up to 30 such officers around the country controlling shops. They usually used under-age volunteers in order to lead their case,” stated Health Ministry public health chief advisor Ashley Bloomfield.
The new legislation will permit the officers to impose fines in stead of taking the case through the courts, Dr. Bloomfield stated.
The maximum punishment for selling to a minor has been $2000, but courts have usually imposed a fine in the amount of $300 and $500. While details should be yet worked out, the instant fines are expected to be implemented in the near future.
“Tobacco displays were used by tobacco manufacturers in order to attract more and more smokers, and taking these displays away would significantly improve public health. We have asked for many years to resolve this problem. This action will have a great effect on decreasing the number of smokers,” Cancer Society Health Promotion manager Jan Pearson declared.
Storekeepers’ safety and livelihoods had suffered from these changes.
The Association of Convenience Stores that has a tobacco company representative on its board, declared it could cost $50 million for New Zealand traders to change their stores.
“Currently New Zealand retailers are facing severe threats of abuse and aggravated assail as they have to hunt for tobacco products that constitute more than 40% of their sales,” stated chairman Roger Bull.
Meantime, British American Tobacco New Zealand, encouraged the Government’s decision to let smoke free enforcement officers apply instant fines.
“Instant fines issued for retailers that were caught selling cigarettes to people under under-age, may force retailers to be more careful. But unfortunately there are no any evidences that a ban on tobacco displays would have any effect on smoking rates,” stated Susan Jones, head of corporate and regulatory affairs.
Mrs Turia, who presented the policy to great excitement at the Tobacco-Free Aotearoa Conference, declared that the Government was also supervising Australia’s suggestion to permit only plain packaging on tobacco products.