To date, most of the policies that control tobacco in New Zealand have been focused on users, and discouraging people from wanting to buy and smoke cigarettes. Little attention has been given to tobacco supply, and as a result tobacco is widely available in New Zealand.
Tobacco retailer licensing is one way for communities to reduce youth access to tobacco. It ensures compliance with other tobacco related-laws, and limits the negative public health effects associated with tobacco use. Licensing is a common policy tool that governments can use to regulate businesses like alcohol retailers, pharmacists, or restaurants.
Government may license tobacco retailers in order to protect the public’s health and safety by ensuring that retailers comply with responsible retailing practices. Under a tobacco retailer licensing law, the government would require all businesses that sell tobacco products to obtain a license in exchange for the privilege of selling those products.
The Government would require retailers to pay an annual fee to fund administration and enforcement, such as store inspections and youth purchase compliance checks. It is expected that regulating where tobacco can be bought could make it easier for smokers to quit and remain smokefree plus reduce the number of children starting to smoke.
Tobacco retailer licensing has been introduced in many parts of Canada, the USA, Australia, Singapore, Ireland and Scotland.
In New Zealand, the easy access to and availability of tobacco contrasts with other legal yet potentially dangerous products such as alcohol and pharmacy drugs – both of which are strictly regulated.
A licensing system for outlets that sell tobacco would help government to control the supply of tobacco by restricting the number, location, hours and type of tobacco outlets. One example of a tobacco retailer restriction is limiting the number of retailers allowed in a given area. This type of restriction has been introduced in California where they have prohibited tobacco retailers from being within 500ft (approx. 150m) of a school.
Density restrictions have been introduced in some parts of America which prohibit a tobacco outlet opening within 200ft (approx. 60m) of another tobacco outlet.
Restricting licenses to certain types of outlets can also affect availability. For example San Francisco became the first city in the USA to ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies. This implies that New Zealand could ban tobacco sales in dairies, petrol stations, or supermarkets.
There is high public support for reducing the retail availability of tobacco. In 2013, a survey of 840 Aucklanders found that 62 percent of respondents wanted a reduced number of outlets selling tobacco in their communities.
The 2013 biennial Health and Lifestyles Survey, conducted by the Health Promotion Agency, found that 70 percent of respondents agreed that tobacco should be made less easily available.