A South Auckland dairy owner whose staff member was beaten up and robbed at knifepoint by four offenders stealing cash and cigarettes says he can't afford to stop selling tobacco.
Mangere's Kingsford Supermarket owner Kamaljit Singh had now employed a security guard, installed panic buttons and was considering using smoke bombs to deter future thieves, following last week's attack.
But tobacco sales accounted for about half his turnover and he could not afford to stop selling them, he said.
"It's not just the cigarettes and tobacco themselves, but the rest of the sales is from people coming in to buy smokes. When they're in the shop they're buying other things like drinks and pies."
Mr Singh said tobacco margins were slim, but sales could account for between 30 to 50 percent of a dairy's turnover alone.
About 75 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes went to the government in taxes, the retailer got about 8 percent and the rest went to the manufacturer.
Four Square Huntly owner Jas Sandhu was twice robbed for cigarettes last year.
"Within two minutes they took about $5000 to $6000 worth of cigarettes. That's all they targeted."
Despite that, he also would not stop selling them either.
Cigarette sales made up 22 percent of his total turnover but he would lose another 25 percent because those smokers also bought groceries at the same time.
While both Mr Singh and Mr Sandhu were open to the idea of installing secure vending machines to prevent smash-and-grab thefts, as suggested by ACT Party leader David Seymour, one big retailer who already used them said it was not the panacea it was being made out to be.
Z Energy is spending $1 million installing secure metal cigarette dispensers throughout its 50 stores in Auckland
General manager of retail Mark Forsyth said it was not a cure-all, but just one of many measures it had taken over recent years.
"One thing on its own is very rarely successful."
Z had also installed bollards outside shop fronts, shatter-resistant films for windows, DNA spray, fog canons and safe rooms for staff.
Hokianga service station GAS Omapere used to sell $10,000 worth of tobacco products each week, making a profit of about $800.
However, manager Joseph Taurima decided to stop eight months ago.
"It was just safety. We had a couple of break-ins down the road and it was all about smokes. They tried to have a crack at us as well - that was the last straw," he said.
He now sold school lunch packs and more hardware products to try and make up for the lost revenue.
"We're not there yet... and it's more work, but it's totally worth it. Especially when you hear about shop owners getting beaten up.
"It's not going to happen here. People aren't going to beat us up for lollies or ice-creams."
Meanwhile, the Crime Prevention Network said intense competition in Auckland meant dairy owners did not have the luxury of quitting selling tobacco.
The only way to reduce the robberies was more police and harsher penalties for offenders, it said.