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Tobacco rules worry retailers

Wairarapa retail businesses are worried they will “struggle” if they lose their licenses to sell smoked tobacco products next year.

From July 1, 2024, the number of outlets permitted to sell cigarettes nationwide will drop from 6000 to just 600 stores.

Reducing the sale of smoked tobacco is a part of The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products [Smoked Tobacco] Amendment Bill, which was passed last year.

According to the Ministry of Health’s current ‘Indicative Allocation of Stores Across New Zealand’, only six stores in Wairarapa will be able to sell smoked tobacco products when the provision kicks in – two stores in Masterton, and one each in Carterton, Greytown, Featherston, and Martinborough.

“We will struggle if we have to stop selling smokes and tobacco products,” West End Superstore owner Raj Patel told the Times-Age – a concern echoed by Ōpaki Mini Mart owner Kishor Maisuria.

“No one knows who is going to keep selling cigarettes; it’s going to affect small businesses,” Maisuria said.

Given the increase in dairy robberies in which cigarettes have been a primary target since the price of the product has been steadily ratcheted up as part of the government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, Maisuria also expressed concerns about retailer safety.

“It means there is going to be more crimes,” he said.

“If there are only two stores in Masterton, they [criminals] are going to target them.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told the Times-Age that an application must be made to the Tobacco Regulatory Authority to be considered as an approved smoked tobacco retailer.

“Applications will open from the time the regulations start to come into force, which could be in August.

“The number of stores in Wairarapa will not able to be confirmed until the approved smoked tobacco retailer application process is complete.”

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