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Display ban fails to curb cigarette sales

Saturday 8 Dec 2012 7:45 p.m.

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The Government is facing a backlash as new figures show that its much publicised display ban has failed to curb cigarette sales.

Opponents say the figures make a mockery of the Government's goal of becoming a smoke-free nation by 2025.

The tough new law requiring tobacco to be hidden from public view was supposed to remove the temptation for people battling nicotine addiction.

But for the one in five Kiwis who smoke, out of sight hasn't meant out of mind.

“We're still selling the same volume of cigarettes this year as we were last year, says Phil Knipe, Tauranga service station spokesperson. “The law's an ass in essence.”

The display ban has hardly made a dent in the official figures either. Sales have fallen just 1 percent.

“If that's the case, why are they continuing to tinker around with more tobacco control regulations when New Zealand already has an incredibly effective and comprehensive tobacco control policy?” asks Association of Convenience Stores spokesperson Carrick Graham.

Anti-smoking group ASH says this policy was never about sales.

“It's about kids growing up and not seeing the displays, not being tempted to purchase tobacco, to experiment with tobacco,” says Ben Youdan of ASH.

But it's a logistical headache for retailers.

“I think it's ridiculous personally,” says Mr Knipe. “Stock comes in here. We have to hide it from customers around the corner. We can't load these cupboards behind us until there's nobody in the shop.”

“The retail display ban, if it's achieved anything, has increased transaction costs for retailers,” says Mr Graham. “It has annoyed and frustrated our customers because the amount of time they spend in a store has increased.”

The retail display ban can cost retailers other sales too. The association says it adds 10 seconds to every cigarette transaction, costing its members $1.6 million every year, causing some to question whether the display ban really is just a box ticking exercise for the Government.

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