SINGAPORE: Days before a new rule banning the display of tobacco products kicks in, most stores selling cigarettes told Channel NewsAsia they have the necessary processes in place to ensure they meet regulations.
Operators of a large proportion of supermarkets and convenience stores said most, if not all, of their outlets have been installed with opaque cabinets to store cigarettes when the regulation kicks in on Aug 1.
But when Channel NewsAsia visited some provision shops in the heartlands on Tuesday (Jul 25), some were taking a more casual approach, with no designated cabinets in sight.
PREPARATIONS STARTED IN DECEMBER FOR SOME SUPERMARKETS
Dairy Farm, which operates supermarkets like Giant, Jasons and Cold Storage and convenience stores, said all stores have installed grey or white opaque cabinets ahead of the deadline. The cabinets come with an auto-close mechanism.
As part of the new requirements, tobacco products have to be out of the public’s view at all times, except during restocking or during a transaction.
Dairy Farm said preparations at its Giant chain of supermarkets started in December last year, while Cold Storage started changing its storage cabinets in May. Its 400 7-Eleven stores started installing new cabinets in June. It said cigarettes are sold at all 7-Eleven stores, and most Cold Storage and Giant outlets.
In addition to installing the cabinets, Dairy Farm said staff have also been trained to ensure they are aware of the new rules. “Training and briefing sessions on the new rulings and internal standard operating procedures have been conducted for all staff across all banners to ensure they understand the new rules and to help them to manage customer queries,” a spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.
Separately, NTUC FairPrice, which runs 137 FairPrice supermarkets, has also installed “plain and undecorated cover-up storage units” to comply with the new rules, said a spokesperson.
“NTUC FairPrice is supportive of the Government’s efforts to progressively de-normalise tobacco use and reduce exposure to non-smokers. Necessary communications to FairPrice staff have also been completed, and staff at all stores have been briefed on the new regulations.”
Supermarket chain Sheng Siong, which has more than 40 stores said 90 per cent of its stores have “covered up” its tobacco products. “Our suppliers have been assisting us with covering up the tobacco products in our stores since June 2017 and sliding doors have been put up for our cigarette display cabinets,” a spokesperson said.
“By end-July, all cigarette display cabinets would be covered up.”
NO ISSUES WITH CONFUSION AMONG CUSTOMERS: PROVISION STORES
Most of the 10 provision stores Channel NewsAsia approached in Bedok and Marine Parade said they were prepared ahead of the new regulations. They said preparations started in June, with cigarette suppliers installing opaque cabinets for them at no charge.
One stall in a coffee shop along Bedok Reservoir Road had installed a plain white storage unit, but still had cigarettes on display outside.
Another provision store in Marine Parade said it received a reminder notice from the authorities some weeks back to do the necessary before the new rules kicked in.
While most were already using the new cabinets, a minority was still displaying its cigarettes and other tobacco products in plain sight. There were no cabinets installed either.
The owner of a shop which has been operating in the Marine Parade area for 40 years told Channel NewsAsia he would simply take down the cigarettes when the rules kick in next Tuesday. He said he would store them in a drawer below the cashier’s register, and that he was not too worried about the impending roll-out.
Store owners were also not too concerned that customers would be confused about whether a store still sold cigarettes. “Similar, if not the same cabinets have been installed in other shops so customers will definitely not be clueless about whether or not a shop still sells cigarettes,” said Mr Yousuf Deen, who manages Express Avenue, a provision store along Marine Terrace.
HASSLE TO KEEP CLOSING CABINET, LONGER TRANSACTION TIME
With strict rules in ensuring cigarettes are not on display except during stocking or purchase, Mr Deen said it may be a hassle initially having to remind staff to keep the sliding doors closed after each transaction.
But he said he has told his staff to be mindful of not breaking the rules. Retailers who flout the rules can face a fine of up to S$10,000 for the first offence, imprisonment of up to six months, or both.
Dairy Farm’s spokesperson also said it expects transaction time to take “slightly longer”.
“It may take more time for customers to describe which brand they wish to purchase and for the cashier to take out the cigarette (pack) from the cabinet,” the spokesperson said.
“We expect softer sales with the implementation of this rule although the impact would be more so for our convenience stores rather than our supermarkets.”
FairPrice said it is too early to comment on the extent to which the display ban would affect sales.
The ban on displaying tobacco products is part of the Government’s measures to protect public health and reduce tobacco consumption, and came about after amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act were passed in March last year.
The ban applies to all tobacco products, including cigars, beedies (thin cigarettes wrapped in leaves) and ang hoon (loose tobacco leaves).
In passing changes to the Act, Senior Minister of State Amy Khor said countries like Australia, New Zealand and Thailand have successfully introduced a ban on the display of tobacco products. A full ban on shisha and other emerging tobacco products also kicked in last August.