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Specialist tobacconists seek exemptions from display laws

| Legislation

The owner of the country’s oldest specialist tobacconist has described as "absurd" proposed regulations to restrict the display of tobacco and tobacco-related products at the point of sale.

Alan Phillips of Sturk’s Tobacconists said that while rules are not yet in force‚ "investment in the store (has been) on hold for the past two years" since they were published.

The regulations‚ which limit tobacco product displays to a size of 4m²‚ call for a fine of up to R1m for non-compliance.

"There’s no point in spending any money upgrading or expanding the shop when I have the threat of these regulations hanging over my head‚" said Mr Phillips.

"Obviously this has broader negative economic impacts beyond my small business."

Mr Phillips and other specialist tobacconists "have requested an exemption but there has been deafening silence from the Department of Health"‚ he said.

"Many of them have also put additional investment on hold and one owner has even put on hold his plans to open another six stores. How many much-needed jobs have not been created in the past two years?"

He said the display restrictions‚ which would see tobacconists trying to fit more than 1,000 tobacco products into the allowed area‚ "simply don’t make sense for tobacconists".

"The Department of Health says the intention behind the regulations is to stop impulse purchases by consumers‚ prevent the triggering of a craving in ex-smokers‚ and ensure young people don’t start smoking.

"I just can’t see how restricting the display space in a specialist tobacconist will address these issues. We aren’t an impulse purchase. People come into our stores to buy cigarettes or other legitimate tobacco-related products."

Mr Phillips acknowledged the health issues surrounding tobacco: "Everyone already knows that smoking isn’t good for you. So while ongoing education and awareness raising is important‚ the department should look at imposing formal age restrictions for those who may enter tobacconists and tackling proxy purchasing.

"I think banning the display of tobacco products looks like an easy win for the Department of Health‚ when coming up with truly effective measures is much more work."

RDM Newswire

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