Amendments to the Smoke-Free Environments Act mean all stores, including dairies, petrol stations and speciality smoking shops, are banned from displaying tobacco images.
From July 22, all tobacco product displays will become illegal and retailers will not be allowed to trade under a name that suggests they sell them.
The act, passed on July 14 last year, gives smokefree environment officers the power to issue fines ranging from $1000 to $10,000 to businesses caught displaying tobacco.
The law changes have forced Palmerston North business owner Richard Green to change the name of his three speciality tobacco stores, in Main St and Rangitikei St in Palmerston North, and in Whanganui.
The Discount Tobacconist, as Mr Green’s shops were formerly known, have been renamed the Butt Bucket. He is allowed to keep the company name of Discount Tobacconist, but cannot advertise under it.
Frustrated by the law change, Mr Green said speciality tobacconists should be able to differentiate themselves from other stockists.
“The law sucks. You don’t go into a tobacconist to buy groceries or petrol. You’re going in there for a reason, you’re going in to buy cigarettes.”
As part of the change, Mr Green has to frost cigar cases, install self-closing doors over displays, remove anti-smoking notices and take down warning signs about selling cigarettes to people under 18.
He served more than 200 shoppers a day at each store and was concerned the law change would affect his customer service capabilities.
Customers would be issued with a pricing list to choose from and the staff would have to find the products because labels were not allowed on display units, Mr Green said.
Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway, part of the select committee that considered the law, said when he started working on the bill, he visited one of Mr Green’s shops.
“When I was in there, a very young boy came in to buy lollies from his shop. He sells milk, he sells bread; yes, predominantly he sells tobacco, but he also sells other things young people go in to buy and then they have this onslaught of tobacco products in front of them.
” That is precisely what we’re trying to get rid of. Getting it out of sight and out of mind is an important step in giving young people that message that it isn’t a normal product, it isn’t a normal part of life.”
Mr Green said there was a simple solution.
“I’m not trying to be dramatic here, but if they don’t want cigarettes and tobacco in New Zealand, then make nicotine a class C drug.
“I’m a smoker, I’ve been a smoker for years. We all know it’s bad for us. Why can [the Government] not just leave it alone?”
Palmerston North women Tamara Stacey, 22, gave up smoking last month after more than five years of regular puffing. She signed up to Quitline with her boyfriend and found doing it together made it easier.
After four weeks off smoking, she said that the law change was a good idea.
“Especially for people who are quitting, because if you don’t see [cigarettes], it’s like out of sight, out of mind.”