Point of Purchase promotion (POP) has
a significant impact on tobacco use. The most perverse
effect of this promotion is the trivialization of a
deadly product. But POP also creates an unavoidable
temptation for those who are trying to quit smoking. As
well, POP facilitates a false perception with respect to
the popularity of tobacco products (by leading people to
believe that tobacco use is more widespread than it is
in reality); this is a determining factor in the
initiation of tobacco use among young people
Tobacco use has been progressively
declining for 40 years, a trend not only accepted but
supported by society at large. Banning of displays is
simply a logical follow-up to this social movement.
If tobacco was today a new product
which was being introduced to the marketplace, it would
be banned immediately.
Despite the ban on the display of
cigarettes packages, convenience stores will remain
smokers’ primary source of cigarettes.
Retailers recently acquired many new
customers, namely all the people who bought tobacco
products in restaurants, bars, vending machines and
cultural and sporting establishments before
implementation of the ban on sales in these locations in
2006. The number of tobacco sales outlets in Quebec has
dropped from 20,000 to 7,100.
Retailers have already shown that
they can easily adapt to significant reductions in
tobacco use. As proof of this, reduction in tobacco
sales in recent years has been accompanied by a
significant increase in total convenience retailer
Once wall and counter displays and
signs promoting tobacco disappear, the remaining space
will be available for other types of revenue-producing
promotions or products for businesses.
As well, some inventory maintenance
practices are likely to continue to be compensated by
the industry (such as premiums given in exchange for
large orders). In Saskatchewan, sums paid by tobacco
companies to retailers have in fact slightly increased
since implementation of the display ban there.
Most cigarettes are purchased from
financially-stable businesses. Only one-fifth of
tobacco products are bought from small independent
corner stores, which generally deploy much less
promotion than franchise convenience stores (most
receive an [annual] amount less than $2000).
In Manitoba, the reorganization of
displays and product placement cost on average $1700 per
retailer, a one-time cost which represents 0.006% of
their average annual revenue.
There have been two government
consultations (one on the strengthening of Québec’s
tobacco law in January 2005, and parliamentary hearings
in May-June 2005) in which retailer associations have
participated. The display ban was adopted in June 2005.
Retailers have known for 2 ½ years that displays will
disappear on 31 May 2008.
POP is not (unfortunately) the last
type of promotion available to the tobacco industry.
Among others, the provincial law still allows signs
concerning availability and price of tobacco products in
The only “customers” who are not
aware of different tobacco brands are “beginner”
smokers, that is usually minors—and it is illegal for
the latter to buy tobacco products.
For those who suggest that the new
requirements will encourage theft, we respond: if one
wants to protect one’s money, does one display it
openly, or hide it?
Despite the growing problem of
contraband tobacco, it is still nevertheless accurate
that 7 of 10 cigarettes are still accessed through
retail outlets, and that 100% of industry promotions are
found in these stores.