Many of the approximately 8000 New Zealand retailers selling tobacco are small stores that tobacco companies have represented as victims of policy measures designed to reduce smoking. Despite this depiction, many retailers experience considerable ambivalence in selling tobacco, a product they know harms their customers. We explored how retailers perceived the proposed introduction of standardised (or ‘plain’) packaging and their assessment of arguments made by tobacco companies in submissions on proposed standardised packaging legislation.
Using qualitative in-depth interviews, we recruited and interviewed 23 retailers of dairies (small convenience stores), small supermarkets, and service stations.
Data were analysed using a protocol-driven approach; this stance enabled direct analysis of tobacco companies’ arguments, particularly those purporting to represent retailers’ concerns.
Retailers were concerned about the financial implications of standardised packaging and the effects it may have on their ability to provide rapid and efficient customer service. However, few thought standardised packaging would foster illicit trade or spawn further regulation; most placed public health goals ahead of tobacco companies’ ‘rights’, and many supported government intervention to protect population health.
Retailers held ambivalent views on standardised packaging; while they were concerned about short-term effects on their business, they recognised the harm smoking causes. Policymakers and health researchers could collaborate more effectively with retailers by assisting them to create financially viable roles more compatible with public health objectives.