Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Ontario Smoking Regulation Requires Retailers to Cover Up

If you've noticed some strange construction going on at your local convenience store lately, there is a very good reason.

Effective May 31, 2008, Ontario retailers will be required by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to eliminate their "power walls," or visual displays of cigarettes that typically dominate the area behind convenience store counters.

As City News reports,

... come May 31st, the province is forcing convenience stores to cover them up. The idea is out of sight, out of mind - especially for teenagers.

"It's one of the most influential forms of advertising," warns marketing expert Jeffery Gottheil. "So influential that 70 percent of all purchase decisions are made in store. It's one of the most powerful advertising vehicles there is."

Acording to a Ministry of Health factsheet, the display ban for tobacco products "is fully in effect as of May 31, 2008. Its goal is to prevent young persons from beginning to smoke and to assist those who have quit to remain smoke-free."

It lists stringent, new cigarette-dispensing requirements as follows:


No tobacco products may be displayed in a retail store. This means:

  • Tobacco products must be stored in a way that prohibits consumers from seeing them before they are purchased.
  • Customers are not allowed to handle cigarettes or other tobacco products before they purchase them.
  • Store owners must ensure that tobacco products are not displayed to a potential consumer while re-stocking, conducting inventory checks or any other process that may require the storage device to be opened and tobacco products viewed.
  • The brief time when a seller opens and closes the storage device and transfers the product to a customer is not considered a “display” under section 3.1(2) of the Act.
  • Important: Any intentional or unintentional action to display tobacco products in the storage device could be subject to a charge under the Act.

Acceptable Storage

Examples of acceptable tobacco product storage and dispensing systems include:

  • Overhead containers that ensure tobacco products are only visible to the clerk;
    Below-the-counter drawers or cabinets that ensure tobacco products are only visible to the clerk;
  • Single package dispensing, gravity-fed devices;
  • Retrofit devices that cover shelves with a top-hinge “flip up” cover that close automatically or immediately by gravity. These must be no larger than 30.5 cm (or one foot) in height by 61 cm (2 feet) in length, and must open one at a time;
  • Slim drawers that open in sections and expose only the spine of cigarette packages;
  • On-the-counter devices and rotating trays of tobacco products only visible to the clerk.

Unacceptable Storage

Examples of unacceptable tobacco product storage and dispensing systems include:

  • Garage door style covers which open to display the whole or a large portion of the stock of tobacco products;
  • Large cupboards which open to permit the consumer to view the display of larger quantities of tobacco products;
  • Retrofit devices that cover shelves with a bottom hinge “flip down” cover that does not close automatically and would remain open unless lifted back into a closed position;
  • Curtains or blinds;
  • Horizontal sliding doors such as closet doors.
  • Small tags are permitted on the outside of tobacco product storage devices in order to help a clerk locate the particular tobacco product(s) contained in each storage device. Price information is not permitted on these identification tags.
  • The tags must:
    -Use black type on a white background
    -Use letters up to 14 point type size
    -Not use logos or colour
    -Not be larger than 2" x 1" (5 cm x 2.5 cm)


Local public health units will carry out inspections and investigations in tobacconist retail outlets in order to enforce the act.


An individual could be subject to a maximum fine of $4,000 for a first offence and $100,000 for a third offence or more. A corporation could be subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 for a first offence and $150,000 for a third offence or more.

Can you hear Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in the background, uttering his historic words for all ages?

Tear down that 'power wall,' Mr. Du Maurier!

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Visit our Toronto Law Firm website: www.wiselaw.net



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