Smokefree 2025: Dairy owner's concern at Government proposal to slash number of cigarette retailers

The Government's proposal to slash the number of cigarette retailers to meet its Smokefree 2025 goal has dairy owners concerned - and some Kiwis are sceptical if the goal can actually be met. 

Wellington woman Cydnee Anderson started smoking when she was just eight years old, sneaking cigarettes from her sisters and aunties. 

"And then when I was 13, I was allowed to smoke. So between 13 and 15, probably like maybe a packet a day," she told Newshub. 

Anderson managed to quit cigarettes, but then started vaping. She wants to quit that too, as it's costing her $20 a day.

"It was good, but then it's just the same sort of pattern of getting addicted to vaping - it's the same sort of addiction," she says. 

Turning smokers into vapers is part of the Government's plan to get Kiwis to collectively stub out the smokes as part of its Smokefree 2025 goal. But Kiwis Newshub spoke to aren't so convinced it can be met. 

"Probably not," one man said when asked if a smoke-free New Zealand is realistic by 2025.

"I don't think it's really going to work," said another.

Another suggested it "should be up to the person whether they can smoke or not".

Announcing the proposals on Thursday, Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the business-as-usual approach to smoking will not get New Zealand to the proposed smoke-free outcome. 

She pitched the public some ideas on how to meet the Smokefree 2025 target, like slashing nicotine levels, potentially up to 95 percent; setting a minimum price for cigarettes; and creating a smoke-free generation by banning anyone born after 2003 from buying smokes.

Without action, smoking will continue to kill about 4000 Kiwis a year - that's 12 people a day.

"No single one of them will get us to the goal but in combination, we have a real chance of getting there," Dr Verrall said. 

Anti-smoking group, Action for Smokefree 2025, is backing all the proposals. They want New Zealand to lead the world with trailblazing action. 

"They're actually globally groundbreaking," says director Deborah Hart. "If we can make them all happen, we can get to Smokefree 2025.

"This is urgent business."

But Wellington dairy owner Dimpal Alpesh Patel is worried about the plan to crackdown on stores selling cigarettes - from 8000 to just 400. 

"Honestly speaking, with small businesses, if there is no smoke, many businesses will close down," she told Newshub. 

ACT's social development spokesperson Karen Chhour says smokers who can least afford it will end up spending more on their habit if the Government mandates lower nicotine in tobacco.

"There's a strong argument too that this will drive up the trade of black market tobacco with high nicotine, driving those addicted to cigarettes to turn to crime to feed their habit," she said. "The gangs will be rubbing their hands with glee."

These changes are radical because the goal is radical - New Zealand could be the first country to quit smoking. But this is still just a discussion document, while the 2025 deadline keeps hurtling towards us.