Does anyone remember having to go into a pharmacy and ask for condoms?
30 years ago today saw a massive change in how New Zealanders bought condoms – for the first time they became available on supermarket shelves. Until 1985, condoms were bought mainly from chemist shops. Boxes were either on display or customers had to ask for them, which sometimes led to embarrassment.
The dominant brand was British-made Durex, which was well-established in pharmacies. Two new brands entered the marketplace in the mid-1980s – Ansell Lifestyles and Ultimate. Their distributors seized the opportunity to sell in supermarkets and reach the masses.
It was also necessary. In the 1980s people became more aware of the dangers of unprotected sex, particularly with the risks of HIV and Aids. Condoms were the only form of protection against infection, but were not very popular. So they had to be made more user-friendly and easier to buy to encourage people to use them.
There were many debates about whether condoms should be easily available in dairies and supermarkets. Some felt that it was a moral issue – that under 16-year-olds might buy them. Some felt that condoms were personal and private and should only be sold in pharmacies. However, the law didn’t restrict the selling of condoms as long as they weren’t sold to people under 16.
The first products to hit supermarket shelves were Ansell’s Lifestyles range. The packaging featured romantic imagery of couples in love – these products were aimed at women who were often in charge of the supermarket trolley.
Now condoms can be bought at supermarkets, pharmacies, garages, dairies, pubs, clubs, and from vending machines in public toilets. They’re everywhere!
See and hear more about condoms and contraception:
- See a slideshow of condom packaging from the discreet to the romantic – Get it on: Condoms
- Hear Dame Margaret Sparrow describe how her contraceptive collection began – Condoms to consumer rights
- Visit Te Papa’s exhibition Contraception: Uncovering the collection of Dame Margaret Sparrow