cigarette-sales

Cat: Pack of cigarettes please.
Sales person: Are you sure that you want to waste one of your 9 lives on cigarettes?
Cat: You’re wasting your only life working in a convenience store.
Sales person: (wiping tears) 90 rubles please.

Ларёк - also киоск - a booth, a sort of a convenience store in Russia.

Proposed ban on flavoured tobacco sales raises worries among retailers

A proposed ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco products in Singapore has caused rising concerns among provision shops, coffee shops, minimarts and other tobacco retailers over the sustainability of their businesses.

In a recent survey of 1,475 independent general trade retailers commissioned by four trade associations, almost all respondents (99 per cent) were worried that such a ban would hurt their business. 

Their concerns stem mainly from the potential revenue loss from menthol cigarettes – the most popular flavour on the shelves.

A handful of provision shop and minimart owners who spoke to Yahoo Singapore estimated that 40 to 65 per cent of their profits come from cigarette sales. Most of these merchants said that flavoured cigarette sales accounted for at least half of these profits.

In tandem with overall cigarette sales, market share for menthol-flavoured tobacco has increased over the past three years, according to three minimart owners. They were troubled by the prospect of having to forgo their biggest income generator.

Businesses interviewed by Yahoo Singapore attributed at least half of their total revenues to cigarette sales, of which about half are from flavoured cigarettes.

“Cigarettes are good profit-makers especially since they take up less storage space compared to food and drinks. Furthermore, they have a high sales turnover since people don’t typically sit at the table to smoke for long periods of time,” said Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, one of the associations that commissioned the survey.

“It is important that any proposed tobacco control measures be supported by evidence of their effectiveness in reducing smoking incidence in Singapore, while addressing the impact to the affected retailers,” he added, warning of possible business closures that could follow if the rule is passed. Hong compared the potential impact to the ban on alcohol sales between 10.30pm and 7am, which has been in place since 1 April 2015, and its negative effect on retailers that sell alcohol products.

This survey was concluded in September 2016 and was commissioned by several trade associations, including the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association, the Singapore Mini Mart Association and the Singapore Provision Shop Friendly Association.

About 97 per cent of the respondents flagged another key concern — that a ban could cause smokers of flavoured cigarettes to turn to the black market.

A provision shop owner, who declined to be named, agreed with the finding. “What happens is that when people can’t get the kind of (cigarette) variant they want, they will find alternative ways to get them,” he said.

The trade associations said they were carrying out a separate study on the efficacy and business impact of the proposed ban on flavoured tobacco products. The results will be presented to the government upon completion.

“The trade associations urge the government to review these results and consult with their members before further deliberating on this proposed regulation,” Mr Hong added.

This article was produced in partnership with the Foochow Coffee Restaurant & Bar Merchants Association