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Published: 17 August 2015

Authors: Robertson, L., Marsh, L., Hoek, J., McGee, R., & Egan, R.

Background: In contrast to the sale of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, the retail availability of tobacco in New Zealand (NZ) is relatively unregulated. Tobacco is almost universally available, and the absence of a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers makes enforcement of retail-level legislation challenging. As a key stakeholder group, the views of tobacco retailers are likely to influence the tobacco retail policies that gain political support. We explored NZ tobacco retailers’ views towards mandatory licensing of tobacco retailers, and how they perceived policies that would reduce tobacco availability.

Methods: We conducted face-to-face interviews with tobacco retail store owners and managers throughout NZ (n = 21). A semi-structured interview guide was used, and interviews explored participants’ views of existing tobacco retail policies, the NZ government’s goal of becoming a smokefree country by 2025, possible future policies, such as licensing of tobacco retailers, and perceptions of selling tobacco. Qualitative content analysis was conducted using the interview transcripts as the data source.

Results: The tobacco retailers interviewed expressed varying views on how tobacco sales should be regulated. Around half of the study participants were positive or indifferent about mandatory retailer licensing, and several believed licensing would not have a large impact on them. The idea of restricting the sale of tobacco within 500 m of a school was generally well received by participants, and had more support than policies that would prohibit certain outlet types from selling tobacco.

Conclusion: In contrast to claims made by industry-related organisations, a proposed licensing policy is unlikely to be met with blanket opposition from tobacco retailers. Advocacy efforts may garner more support for tobacco retail policies if the purpose of policies was framed in terms of protecting young people from smoking

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