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Retailers have spoken out against a bill that would ban shops from displaying cigarettes.
The Smokefree Environments (Removing Tobacco Displays) Amendment Bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament in December, would ban all point-of-sale tobacco displays and would also allow infringement notices to be issued when tobacco was sold to people aged under 18.
It would come into force six months after the Bill becomes law, and there would be a two-year transition period so that shops could be modified.
In a submission to Parliament's health select committee today, the Association of Community Retailers tobacco spokesman Richard Green opposed the Bill, saying it was unworkable.
"We have a fundamental problem with the banning of the tobacco displays, which is mainly a retailer issue, because of the initial costs," he said.
"There's no evidence that we've been supplied, and I don't think you've been supplied any new evidence, that states that banning tobacco displays in New Zealand will have an effect on the cessation of smoking."
Mr Green, who owns two Discount Tobacconist stores, said retailers would be hit hard in the pocket by the cost of replacing display units to meet the new legislation requirements.
He said the cost was likely to be up to $2000 for each unit to be replaced.
A submission from supermarket chain Foodstuffs raised concerns about the six-month period in which retailers would have to make the change.
Foodstuffs executive manager Melissa Hodd said two years would be a more appropriate timeframe, but the organisation could live with 12 months.
"Individual retailers will need to make some judgement calls about how they actually implement this," she said.
"In some cases they may actually want to make bigger changes to their point-of-sale area, particularly where stores have a sale's counter as opposed to a checkout, they may want to redesign that whole area."
The Smokefree Coalition and the Cancer Society both supported the Bill, saying it was an important step for the health of New Zealanders.
Smokefree Coaliton director Prudence Stone also called for a register of tobacco retailers to be introduced.
"A register of tobacco retailers would help the Ministry of Health monitor compliance with new laws surrounding displays, but it would also be a great way to forge better relationships with retailers and improve communication lines," Dr Stone said.
"Currently, tobacco retailers have a better relationship with the tobacco industry, and the regular reps who always tell them that retail display bans are bad news, than they do with the ministry.
"Communicating with tobacco retailers through a nationwide register would help everyone involved see the bigger picture, and the long-term benefits of tobacco display bans."