Skip to main content

Anti-Tobacco Law Upsets Manitoba Retailers

Manitoba's newly enacted smoking legislation has the Canadian province's convenience store owners fuming about the expense of hiding cigarettes from kids, according to a report by

To comply with Manitoba's new law, store owners have had to keep cigarettes in cabinets and behind curtains to keep young people from seeing them.

Two stores in Saskatchewan, which has tobacco display laws similar to Manitoba's new one, took the radical step of banning kids from their stores. "We're making more money off the tobacco companies than we are off kids being in the story," said Ted Cooper of Supersave Gas in Saskatoon.

Murray Hurl, the owner of Hurl's Food Mart in Brandon, describes the legislation as "silly. I really question the time, money and expense put into this," he said. "I'd like to see a little more attention paid to the [guys] selling the crack.''

Hurl warned that hiding cigarettes from view will result in slower service at the till.

He and other retailers are also complaining about additional costs. David Lindenberg, co-owner of Jiffy Food and Video in Brandon, said the new legislation has already cost him $1,500 because he had to buy lumber and hire a carpenter to build cabinets. He'll also have to take down displays, which will cut into the money tobacco companies pay to show their product.

The law is meant to reduce temptation for teenagers. "Eighty-five percent, some say as high as 90 percent, of new smokers are teenagers," said Murray Gibson of the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance. "

Christina Dona of Imperial Tobacco said: "Retail displays do not factor at all into a youth's decision to start smoking. So the effect of this legislation is consumers who no longer know what choices are available to purchase."

Young smokers -- the very people whose health the law was intended to safeguard -- insist the law won't stop them from lighting up. "It doesn't really matter because most people I know steal from their parents," said one teen from Winnipeg. "They're not old enough to buy cigarettes anyway."

Lindenberg said that by hiding cigarettes, retailers are making them more desirable to teenagers. He also said the new measures will give smoking an added allure; clerks will have to go through an elaborate "ritual" of drawing back a curtain and pulling out drawers to get cigarettes.

But the provincial government defends the measure, saying potential benefits far outweigh the costs. Manitoba Health spokesman James Drew said some retailers have made the changes part of renovations while others have simply put up curtains.

"The expense has been minimal," he told The Canadian Press. "It has varied in terms of the design of the store and the expense [retailers] have had to incur.''

The legislation was passed in 2002 and came into effect on Jan. 1, 2003. However, it wasn't enforced until Aug. 15, after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld similar legislation in Saskatchewan. Ontario and Quebec are expected to ban tobacco displays next spring and other provinces could follow.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds