The president of New Zealand's Crime Prevention Group has slammed the Government's proposal to slash the number of cigarette retailers, saying it's "ill-conceived" and will put hard workers out of their jobs.
The Government has recently announced new measures, including significantly dropping the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, to meet its Smokefree 2025 goal.
A crackdown on cigarette-selling shops is also planned - bringing them down from 8000 to just 400.
But Crime Prevention Group president Sunny Kaushal told Newshub he doesn't believe it's the right approach.
"I think it is important that we do go for smoke-free by 2025, but the action the Government is taking - for example moving cigarettes from dairies to R18 shops or pharmacies - is uncalled for and ill-conceived.
"The Government needs to understand the underlying problems first before they jump in to address it."
He said the change is going to significantly impact dairy owners, who rely on cigarettes to keep their businesses operating.
"People who come to the dairies aren't just buying cigarettes, they are also buying other stuff but they come for the cigarettes. Cigarette sales for the diaries are on average 50 percent of the revenue, so if the Government is removing that 50 percent revenue they will be out of their jobs.
"The Government is basically pushing them on the dole or benefits that they don't want. They want to work hard and earn with respect."
Kaushal believes banning dairies from selling cigarettes is going to hurt the New Zealand economy.
"These dairy owners, they have been working very hard every day, they open their shops quite early in the morning and they work on average 11 hours per day. They earn closer to the minimum wage - nothing more.
"But they are supporting their families, they aren't on any benefits or they are self-employed and are paying their income taxes and GST to the Government."
The comments were echoed by Wellington dairy owner Dimpal Alpesh Patel, who spoke to Newshub after the announcement on Thursday.
"Honestly speaking, with small businesses, if there is no smoke, many businesses will close down," she told Newshub.
Selah Hart, the CEO of health service Hapai Te Hauora, spoke to The AM Show on Friday about the impact of the Government's changes.
She said she was particularly mindful of dairy owners and the potential impact on their already COVID-affected businesses.
"We need to make sure that we support them to diversify their business and actually let them have an even playing field," she said. "If it is dairies that are not going to be able to sell anymore, it needs to be a blanket policy across all of New Zealand."
Hart thought the crackdown would be "critical" to help Kiwis who hadn't thought about quitting before to reconsider.
But she had concerns the messaging still isn't reaching some communities.
"For some, you are never going to move them, so you just have to be okay with that. But I think what we need to do and look at is invest in a system that invests in providers and Whānau Ora navigators that actually know those communities. We have a whole system which doesn't reach those most underserved communities.
"Currently we have a huge population which aren't even unrolled with a GP practice. So if we are looking at that as a support mechanism to support health and wellbeing, that's not getting to those communities."
Hart said if New Zealand wants to make a difference, "we really have got to do it at pace".