Singapore

Cigarette sellers ready for display ban but fear drop in sales

Most cigarette sellers ready for tobacco display ban but fear drop in sales


Since last week, Yishun minimart owner Toh Eng Lee has been selling cigarettes kept behind closed cupboard doors.

These were installed in preparation for new rules on displaying cigarettes for sale, which kick in tomorrow.

But Mr Toh has already seen a 5 per cent drop in cigarette sales.

"Some older customers don't know the brand names and they used to just come and point at the cigarettes," he said.

"Now they are going to minimarts nearby that have not hidden their cigarettes yet."

Many provision shop and minimart staff have made arrangements to comply with the ban on displaying tobacco products, with help from tobacco distributors.

HASSLE

But they worry the ban will affect sales, be a hassle and confuse customers.

However, some retailers said the impact could be mitigated by regular customers.

In March last year, Parliament passed amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, which requires general retailers to keep all tobacco products out of sight from customers.

These rules do not apply to specialist tobacco sellers, who merely have to make sure that their products are not visible from outside the shop.

Stores were given a year to comply with the rules.

When The Straits Times visited about 15 minimarts and provision shops in areas including Ang Mo Kio and Bedok, most had already stored cigarette packets in cupboards or behind curtains.

Many shop staff said these had been paid for by the tobacco distributors.

ST understands the Tobacco Association (Singapore), which represents the three biggest tobacco companies here, has traditionally provided cigarette cabinets to smaller retailers. It has therefore been paying for the installation of the new cabinets.

"Now, customers walk in and don't even bother to ask (if we have cigarettes), they just walk out," said Mr Ng Chen Hai, who runs a store in Toa Payoh.

He installed the new cabinets about two months ago, and estimated that they have reduced business by about 30 per cent.

Some coffee shop owners have also said it is more troublesome to retrieve the cigarettes, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, who is chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association.

The group represents more than 400 coffee shops, over 90 per cent of which have already made the changes.

Said Ms Em Ong, 22, a university student: "I usually buy my pack from the same shops near my school anyway, so I will just go in and ask for the same thing."  - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEOW SUE-ANN, SEAN LIM & TRISTAN JEYARETNAM

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