Store owners: New rules for displaying Cigarettes bad for business

He’s unsure about whether he should spend money to build new shelves to enclose the packages of Cigarettes or stash them under the counter. ...

Some stores aren’t rushing to comply with the province’s neWest anti-smoking rules, which prohibit displaying Cigarettes where customers can see them.

Casper Elcheikh, who owns Daily Sweets Kwik Way Convenience Store on Oxford Street in Halifax, hasn’t tried to conceal the wide range of tobacco products displayed on the wall behind his counter because he finds the law confusing.

"They don’t tell us how we should do it," he said. "I’m waiting for somebody to come from the government to tell me what I should do."

He’s unsure about whether he should spend money to build new shelves to enclose the packages of Cigarettes or stash them under the counter.

But he’s certain the rules will take a bite out of his bottom line.

He has previously received $6,000 a year enough to pay three months of his shop’s rent from the tobacco companies for promoting their products through eye-catching displays.

"We’re going to lose that," he said. "How much money are we going to make off pop and chips? It’s not going to be enough for living."

Mr. Elcheikh doesn’t earn much from cigarette sales, although it brings customers into the store that might pick up a few More things while they’re there, he said.

He doubts the new measures will cut down on people smoking.

"It doesn’t make sense," he said. "They’re going to keep smoking. It’s just bad for little stores like us."

Navneet Jaggi, who owns Chebucto Grocery on the corner of Chebucto Road and Harvard Street, said he’s also no fan of the new rules, but made sure he had his smokes stashed out of sight under the cash register by the first of this month.

"Because I am a new immigrant I don’t want to create any problem for me," he said.

He didn’t have enough money to build new shelves for Cigarettes on the wall. So now he has to stoop to get them each time and he’s worried about the risks with taking his eyes off his customers.

"It’s very difficult for me," he said. "I have pain in my back. It is also not so good because now the robbers can have a good chance when I’m picking up the Cigarettes, they can hit me in the head and they can do whatever they want.

"When my eyes are on the ground anybody can take whatever they want from here."

Mr. Jaggi said his cigarette sales haven’t been affected by the law, but he’s also losing money from selling some lighters and other things the cigarette companies gave him for free.

"Now they will not give anything to me," he said.

An association representing stores has distributed petitions to various owners for customers to sign as a protest against the law; Mr. Jaggi has filled pages with dozens of signatures.

Melissa MacKinnon, a spokeswoman with the Department of Health Promotion, said stores are supposed to be complying with the new rules, but the province is only giving out verbal warnings this month.

"By mid-August we expected to have about 50 per cent compliance," she said. "They have over the next couple of months to be in full compliance. I think written warnings start in September."

Eventually, the province will be fining stores that don’t comply. Store owners could be fined up to $2,000.

"It’s about access to tobacco," Ms. MacKinnon said of the law. "It’s just taking away another step the tobacco industry has to promote tobacco to young people."

"When you go up to buy something at a convenience store you don’t see a huge wall (of tobacco products) basically there pulling you in. And there’s lots of research to back that up."

The new rules, part of the Tobacco Access Act, stipulate that tobacco products can’t be visible from inside or outside a store. Shopkeepers must keep them under, above or behind the front counter and the products must be behind a spring-loaded cabinet door or another device that closes on its own. The cabinet space can’t be any bigger than about 1.6 square meters.

Vendors may still display a sign that lists the types of tobacco for sale and the prices, but it can’t be much bigger than a sheet of legal-sized paper.

The government had intended for the new rules to take effect March 31 but gave storeowners More time to get ready.



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