A dairy owners advocate says a proposal to limit the number of outlets allowed to sell tobacco products as part of New Zealand's Smokefree 2025 goal will "destroy a number of dairies".
The Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan proposal includes limiting the number of outlets who can sell tobacco products from 5000 to 400 across the country.
Consultation on the proposal ran from April 15 to May 31.
However, today 50 dairy owners from Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and Masterton protested the action outside Parliament. They were representing 1400 operators throughout the country, who say it will affect their livelihoods.
They were carrying postcards that appear to have been supplied by British American Tobacco.
Chairman of the Dairy and Business Owners Group Sunny Kaushal this morning told Breakfast smoking was already declining in New Zealand, so this proposal instead just punishes dairy operators.
"Slashing a 95 per cent outlet would destroy a number of small businesses that Kiwis are depending upon, in particular in the remote areas and also the remote communities," he said.
"We need to understand that going cold turkey won't work for these smokers and also it's going to destroy a number of dairies."
Kaushal said 30 to 50 per cent of dairy profits come from selling these products.
Action for Smokefree 2025's Robert Beaglehole disputed the claim, saying they estimate it is around 10 per cent at most.
"I disagree completely," Beaglehole said. "And lets be very clear, this is not cold turkey, this is not prohibition.
"We've had the 2025 goal since 2011, there is plenty of time for the dairy owners to prepare. I have enormous sympathy for them but lets get real, cigarettes kill 5000 people in New Zealand every year - 14 today, 14 tomorrow.
"We have to encourage the Government to do more and to its credit the Government is. Dairy owners should be applauding the Government as upright citizens concerned about the health of the communities, they should be welcoming every effort to reduce cigarette smoking by legal means in this country."
Kaushal said dairy owners support the smokefree goal and are "not the enemies of this programme", though.
"If you look, dairies are the solution, they are not the problems. You look at the nearly 5000 dairies and the gas stations around New Zealand, they can be a real part and parcel of the solution."
When asked how, Kaushal said dairy operators know smokers more closely than anyone.
"If look at survey after survey, if you look at all the figures the smoking in New Zealand has been declining and it is declining a lot," he said.
"So what we are saying is that these dairies and shops and the gas stations in New Zealand they can help in changing the behaviour and reducing the smoking and also quitting altogether if they're taken into the prgramme altogether because we have more reach to the communities, we know the smokers more than anyone else.
"The Government must work along with the dairy shops and also the gas stations."
Kaushal added that while vaping products are becoming more popular, dairies needed time to transition.
But New Zealand is already not on target to reach our 2025 goal, Beaglehole said.
"The Government has come up with a plan to reach 2025 and this is one of a large number of ambitious proposals and ASH applauds the Government in the seriousness with which it's taking it," he said.
"Although I'm sympathetic [to dairy owners], they've had 10 years, they've got another four years."
He said dairy owners instead need to reduce their reliance on smoking products.
"It's just unbelievable to me that anyone would resist reducing the dependence on a product which kills so many people every day."