Convenience store association not on board with plain cigarette packs

While politicians in Ottawa are weighing the pros and cons of plain cigarette packaging legislation, the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association views are clear, it doesn't want it.

Mike Hammoud, the president of the association, said the proposed packages will make it difficult for employees in a high-turnaround industry to assist customers.

"Everything is going to look exactly the same and we have to deal with handling the product," said Hammoud.

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"Imagine every pack looking the same lying down on shelves."

Hammoud said many convenience store employees are young, and may not be employed there for long. Having distinct looking packaging may be the only way they can quickly determine between brands.

Hammoud cites that in Australia, where they do have plain cigarette packaging, there has been an effect on efficiency.

"We know based on information that we've gotten from the association in Australia that it adds one hour a day," said Hammoud.

While cigarettes are known as harmful to one's health, Hammoud said there may be health risks involved with the plain packs. Just not to the smokers.

"We're asking our workers to turn their backs on a customer for a longer period of time now to find product which is a health concern," said Hammoud.

"They could be hit over the head or get robbed. The longer you lose eye contact with someone it creates an issue."

One of the reasons Ottawa cites for the proposed changes is plain packaging will deter new smokers. Hammoud, who has worked in convenience stores for 30 years, doesn't buy this reasoning.

"I have never in my lifetime had a non-smoker walk into any of my businesses and go 'Oh, what a pretty orange package. I think I'm going to start smoking today," said Hammoud.

Regardless, Hammoud said he thinks he government will go ahead with their plan.

"I think unfortunately they're not going to listen to us and they're going to go forward with it," said Hammoud.

"We're following the rules, doing everything we need to do and sell that product, we're collecting all the taxes from both federal and provincial governments … wouldn't it make sense to listen to our concerns?"

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