Hāpai Te Hauora's answer to this question is ‘to remove the supply of tobacco from convenience stores nationwide’. This may seem like an unrealistic goal in today’s context but we believe it is achievable. It will simply take some brave decisions by government and our communities.
Chris Wilkinson, a retail expert (Stuff, 23/7/18), is calling for dairy owners to stop relying on the sale of cigarettes in order to combat tobacco-driven crime. He suggests working with communities to see what other high-margin products can be stocked as an alternative to cigarettes and offset the reliance on this product for revenue. Hāpai Te Hauora supports this statement. We are calling for a business redesign of the industry to find other methods for commercial sustainability.
Hāpai GM Tobacco Control Advocacy, Mihi Blair, says "If New Zealand is going to reach the Smokefree2025 goal, then it is up to communities to take ownership of this goal and to join the call on the industry to step up. We have over 5,000 outlets selling tobacco due to a retail environment which prioritises profit over health, so it is about time dairies rethink their sales tactics and agree with Mr Wilkinson’s suggestion to engage with their communities and work on what their communities would like to see stocked."
Earlier this year, with Hāpai's support, the community of Kelston, West Auckland called for their five local dairies to stop selling tobacco on World Smokefree Day 2018. The key challenge was the perception from the dairy owners that they needed to rely on tobacco sales or see their businesses fail. Two of the five dairies heeded the call and bravely removed tobacco from their stores. These business owners and others who have put their communities first and stopped sales of tobacco products show that it can be done.
Otago University is currently developing research whose initial findings show an increase of 11% of tobacco being sold in retail outlets, additionally tobacco outlet density is shown to be 4x greater in poorer communities. This means that people living in neighbourhoods with higher numbers of tobacco retail outlets are more likely to take up smoking. Living within walking distance to tobacco outlets means people are more likely to relapse so it makes it harder to quit. Rangatahi, our youth are more susceptible to smoking when tobacco is supplied near schools.
Blair adds "We know what tobacco is doing to our communities but yet it is still available. We call on the government to be brave and remove tobacco from dairies and work with the industry to find an alternative. In the meantime we encourage communities to support dairies and convenience store retailers who have shown how much they care about the health of their customers by pre-emptively removing tobacco from their shelves. It is these businesses who deserve our support"