Coffee shops against ban on open display of cigarettes

Cigarettes cannot be openly displayed in shops under a new proposal to further discourage smoking.

PETALING JAYA - Coffee shop owners are vehemently objecting to a proposed move by the Government to ban the open display of cigarettes and other tobacco products in their premises, citing security reasons.

The Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors' General Associa­tion argued that the move would mean that shopkeepers have to keep tobacco products in drawers under the counter or in locked cabinets, an act that they claim increases security risks.

"If the proposal is implemented by the Government, a simple transaction becomes an added inconvenience as it requires the cashier to be away from the counter, bend down to reach the drawer, or turn away from the customer when retrieving a particular tobacco product that will be stored in the drawers or closed cabinets.

"Criminals can easily take advantage of the lack of vigilance by stealing other products or worse, attack our business operators from behind and empty the cash register," said association president Ho Su Mong in a statement yesterday.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subra­maniam recently announced a slew of reforms to tighten tobacco control, including banning direct and indirect promotion of tobacco products and reducing nicotine content in cigarettes by 2015.

He said large cigarette displays in convenience stores, which served as a form of indirect advertising, would also be an area the ministry would look into.

Dr Subramaniam said there was an estimated four million smokers in the country, with middle-class Malaysians spending between RM500 (S$192) and RM600 a month on cigarettes.

Ho said more than 150,000 coffee shops, eateries, food courts, sundry shops, stalls and wholesale operators would be affected should the proposal take effect.

He added that the move to ban open displays would mean additional cost for the shop owners.

In June, the Singapore Health Promotion Board announced that it would be looking into the feasibility of removing tobacco products within plain sight, and to have them stored in enclosed areas such as drawers.

"Customers who want to buy these products would therefore need to specifically ask for them," it said.

"The aim of the measure is to decrease the exposure of smokers and non-smokers to the advertising effects of tobacco products, and ultimately denormalise tobacco use," it added.