CORNER shop owners in New Zealand are being urged to consider stocking e-cigarettes after an increase in violent tobacco-related robberies.
Over 1,200 stores were raided in the past year for cash and cigarettes, which fetch a high price in the country, leaving businesses and workers living in terror.
While mini markets are going to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the armed raids, including fog cannons and security guards, stocking e-cigarettes has now been put forward as an idea to reduce crime.
Dairy store owner Sandeep Patel was forced to install a security cage around his Hamilton shop after two teenagers attacked him with a machete before making off with $20,000 of cigarettes and the entire till.
With cigarettes accounting for 70 per cent of their shop sales, Patel's family claims without selling them their corner stores wouldn’t survive.
"It's really, really scary now. This is happening every day," he said, "It's happening everyday just because of cigarette price. The Government needs to do something for us."
But some say stocking vape products instead of tobacco could be the answer. While cigarettes have a high retail price, the stores’ insurance costs have rocketed following the attacks which mean profits have dramatically reduced.
Bringing premiums down by stocking e-cigarettes instead, which still provides smokers in the community with a nicotine hit, could be a realistic solution.
Phil Murphy of Liquor Centre Matata was one of the earliest adopters of a tobacco-free policy at his store after a spate of attacks – and says he’s never regretted making the switch.
"As far as business is concerned - markup on cigarettes is very minimal so there isn’t a lot of benefit to business owners when selling them. Since I stopped stocking tobacco products I’ve saved a lot more money purely on insurance costs than I would have made selling cigarettes.
“With a lower risk of robberies, our premiums go right down. Also, we have greater peace of mind."
"This is yet another negative impact cigarettes and tobacco have on life in New Zealand," added QJ Satchell, director of predominant e-cigarette retailer NZVAPOR. "Not only does smoking kill more than 5000 New Zealanders every year and present a huge public health risk, but the sale of these products leave businesses vulnerable to attack. We’re suggesting that instead of stopping the sale of nicotine products altogether, dairy (shop) owners investigate the option of swapping out their tobacco stands for e-cigarette consignment."
Thousands of smokers in New Zealand are now making the move to e-cigarettes for health benefits and in doing so are saving hundreds of dollars every week.
Vaping is significantly cheaper than smoking in the country with a week’s supply of e-juice costing as little as $20 compared to a smoker spending well over $25 per day on just one pack of cigarettes.
"We’re trying to do our bit to help dairy owners stay safe. After all; if a dairy owner stops stocking nicotine products altogether, the end user is the one who is ultimately left out in the cold,” QJ added.
"This is not a silver bullet solution, but it is a great option for those dairy owners who can’t afford to get out of the tobacco market. We shouldn’t have dairy owners fearing for their lives just to earn a living."