Aotearoa New Zealand plans to greatly reduce tobacco retail outlets, which are concentrated in areas of higher deprivation and perpetuate health inequities caused by smoking and borne particularly by Māori. However, we lack in-depth analyses of how this measure could affect people who smoke.
We undertook in-depth interviews with 24 adults from two urban areas who smoke. We used a novel interactive mapping approach to examine participants’ current retail outlets and their views on a scenario where very few outlets would sell tobacco. To inform policy implementation, we probed participants’ anticipated responses and explored the measure’s wider implications, including unintended impacts. We used qualitative description to interpret the data.
Most participants anticipated accommodating the changes easily, by using alternative outlets or bulk-purchasing tobacco; however, they felt others would face access problems and increased costs, and greater stress. They thought the policy would spur quit attempts, reduce relapse among people who had quit and protect young people from smoking uptake, and expected more people to switch to alternative nicotine products. However, most foresaw unintended social outcomes, such as increased crime and reduced viability of local businesses.
Many participants hoped to become smoke-free and thought retail reduction measures would prompt quit attempts and reduce relapse. Adopting a holistic well-being perspective, such as those developed by Māori, could address concerns about unintended adverse outcomes and provide comprehensive support to people who smoke as they adjust to a fundamental change in tobacco availability.