Retailers vexed over display ban

They thought their cigarette sales would not take a beating after tobacco companies decided to absorb the 10 per cent tax hike announced in Parliament last month.

Then came the second salvo last week in the Government's attempt to curb cigarette sales - and this is expected to bite.

From the end of next year, those selling cigarettes can no longer display the packets in their shops. Parliamentary Secretary for Health Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on March 12 the ban is to protect the youth.

Mr Alan Tay, the chairman of the Singapore Mini Mart Association that represents 50 minimart merchants, said the ban will definitely affect the shops' takings.

"Thirty per cent of my monthly takings come from the sale of cigarettes because of the number of walk-in customers we get each day, so our takings will definitely be hit by the ban," said Mr Tay, who runs a shop in Bendemeer Road.

Cigarette sales, he added, are one of his biggest sales items - way ahead of other household items such as rice and dairy products like bread and milk.

When the display ban comes into force, retailers will also have to set up new fixtures to store the cigarettes away from public view, for example, and this will cost money, Mr Tay said.

He will also have to train his workers to identify cigarette brands so as not to slow down the check-out process.

Mr Tay said he was aware the Health Ministry was considering imposing such a ban since June last year, when retailers were invited to a public consultation at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

But he said he did not expect it to come so soon and no guidelines have been released. Mr Faishal told Parliament retailers will get 12 months' grace after the law is gazetted.


When contacted, Mr Victor Cheong, the general manager of Cheers Holdings, which runs more than 120 Cheers convenience stores, said the company was "supportive of the Government's efforts to curb smoking".

He did not say how such a ban would affect the convenience stores.

However, Mr Kelvin Tan, who manages a small convenience store in Yishun, believes the new ruling would hit smaller retailers more.

He declined to reveal how much he makes from cigarette sales each month.

Said the 29-year-old: "There are costs involved in covering the cigarettes. Also, it would double the check-out time and customers would walk away if there is a queue."

Agreeing, Mr Tay said he hopes the Government will give smaller retailers some help when enforcing the ban.

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