Back in 2008, my home province of Ontario banned the display of tobacco products in variety stores.
Initially shopkeepers erected DIY cardboard shutters or cabinet door set-ups. Since then, these display covers have evolved into pre-made shutters, making it easier on the cashier to access the smokes while providing additional advertising space for other products.
Still an annoyance to the vendor, but they are making the most out of another annoying government regulation.
The idea behind the ban was that when little kids went to the cashier to pay for their bottle of root beer, they would no longer see a power wall of brightly packaged cigarettes behind the cashier.
When the display ban was first enacted, there was a lot of push-back from shopkeepers and adult smokers. Store owners complained about the costs incurred setting up these display covers and the potential safety issues arising from cashiers turning away from customers as they scavenged for cigarettes.
Adult smokers mocked the display ban as another ineffective attempt by a nanny-state government to criminalize their smoking habit. The display covers were mocked as silly, annoying and highly unlikely to keep kids from picking up the smoking habit.
Fast forward to 2012…and a discussion I had with one of my clients last week.
She was driving her 10 yr old son home from school and they stopped into a variety store to pick something up. While in the store, he was telling his Mom about a group of construction workers he saw earlier in the day taking a smoke break. As he peppered her with questions like “why do people smoke? and commenting on how stinky smokers are, they headed to the cash to pay for their swag.
That’s when he asked her…where do people get cigarettes?
Since the display ban was enacted when he was just a little kid, he has never seen a display of cigarettes. Never stared at the power-wall of smokes as he bought a bag of potato chips with his allowance. Never was exposed to cigarette advertising designed to make smoking “cool”.
And while I personally detest the idea of any government trying to socially engineer it’s adult citizens under the guise of preventing bad habits, I think it’s pretty darn “cool” of them to shield our kids from the marketing of tobacco to our kids.
Parents wouldn’t let an adult give their 6-year old a pack of cigarettes and encourage them to smoke, so why should they allow cigarette companies to brainwash their kids into thinking smoking is “cool”.
Next up…Junk Food.
Class action lawsuits are pending…and government legislation won’t be far behind.