Stopping new shops selling tobacco 'positive policy option'

Louise Marsh
Louise Marsh
Preventing new retail outlets from selling tobacco would be a "crucial step" in achieving the Government's 2025 smokefree goal, new University of Otago research suggests.

One of the study's authors, Louise Marsh, said the Government could halve the number of tobacco outlets by 2032 by preventing new outlets from selling tobacco, but allowing existing retailers to keep selling until they closed or relocated.

The research has just been published in medical journal Tobacco Control. Dr Marsh is co-director of the Cancer Society social and behavioural research unit at the university's department of preventive and social medicine.

Existing Government policies were "working towards" the 2025 target, but "there's no way we'll make the target" simply by relying on current policies, she said yesterday.

Continuing tobacco sales through existing outlets, but stopping sales through new outlets was "a positive policy option".

This proposed step would not achieve "New Zealand's end-game goal" of reducing tobacco availability to minimal levels by 2025, but was "better than the status quo", and would help save lives.

Reducing sale outlets was likely to help lower smoking prevalence and would also respond to a "big equity issue" about the many tobacco outlets found in economically deprived areas.

Decreasing sales outlets would also help reduce youth smoking initiation and help smokers quit more easily, Dr Marsh and her colleague, Dr Lindsay Robertson, formerly of the Otago department, concluded.

The pair examined the impact of a hypothetical policy, which from 2020 restricted new retail outlets from selling tobacco.

Based on mean annual closure rates, overall tobacco outlets would decrease by 27% by 2025, 50% by 2032 and 84% by 2050.

The Government was trying to reduce smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels by 2025, but had not taken action to reduce tobacco availability since the goal was established in 2011.

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