How does one find tobacco in Ontario, Canada, if a store can't advertise that it sells it, can't show it to you, and you can't touch it? This is not a riddle. Starting May 31, retail stores in Ontario must hide their tobacco from plain sight. A new revision to the Smoke Free Ontario Act, the Tobacco Display Ban will prohibit businesses from displaying tobacco products within their retail stores.
Buying a cigar in Ontario will become a convoluted experience. In stores that are not registered with the Ministry of Health Promotion, any form of display case, shelf, rack, dispenser, kiosk or window that exposes any tobacco product will be prohibited. Walk-in humidors will need to have frosted glass, so as to obscure the view from the outside. Registered tobacconists need not frost their walk-in humidor walls, and customers may walk inside their humidors, but they won't be allowed to physically handle a cigar before buying one.
The law also forbids promotional signs, illuminated panels, three-dimensional exhibits or decorative backdrops that reflect any brand of tobacco.
"The law is more concerned with convenience stores and cigarettes," said Jay Henderson, manager of La Casa del Habano in Windsor, Ontario. "Our shop is in full compliance."
Still, he said he receives about four annual surprise visits from the Ministry of Health Promotion. A business could be subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 for a first offense and $150,000 for three or more offenses. An individual could be subject to a maximum fine of $4,000 for a first offense and $100,000 for three or more offenses.
"It's a very bizarre situation now," said Henderson. "A store can have tobacco for sale, but you're not allowed to know about it."
From the current issue of Cigar Insider.
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