Some Auckland dairy owners are optimistic that limiting where tobacco is sold could reduce the number of robberies.
Early findings from a Regional Public Health survey of Auckland dairy owners suggest they may be on board with legislation that will only permit the sale of tobacco from specialist stores.
While the idea has received support from some, others said it would drastically reduce sales and force some shops to shut down.
On Thursday night, there was a steady stream of customers filing through a West Auckland dairy.
The owner, who asked not to be named out of fear her store would be targeted for stocking tobacco, supported the idea of specialist, tobacco-only stores.
She said it could be the solution to reducing the number of dairy robberies.
"It may reduce it in the fact that being a specialised store, if the security and everything is correct, it might reduce it," she said.
It would likely affect her sales but she was confident her store would stay open.
"I suppose, there is something else a person would buy so I wouldn't really worry about it too much."
Just under 20 Auckland dairy owners were surveyed - and most of those businesses were family-owned.
Dean Adam, from Regional Public Health, said despite some owners being in the business for 35 years an increase in dairy robberies had caused anxiety for owners and many were happy to ditch the products.
"For them, they were quite happy not to sell this [tobacco] but their fear is that the dairy across the road is still selling it they're not going to be competitors, they'll lose business and for some of them, the margins are really small."
Auckland's Crime Prevention Group president Sunny Kaushal was surprised by the initial findings.
Many dairy owners relied on tobacco to boost sales, he said.
"Customers who are coming to buy the cigarettes are also buying a lot of other stuff from the shops so stopping these kinds of cigarettes would in fact damage their business."
The legislation could force many dairies to shut shop, he said.
"So many people are now self-employed, currently running their dairies and shops they would become un-employed."
Better solutions that reflected the "ground reality" for shop owners were needed, he said.
The preliminary results of the study are discussed in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.