Tobacco controls will squeeze out local shops

Abaid Ullah. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Abaid Ullah. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

A Cardenden newsagent is warning that the local neighbourhood convenience store will be squeezed out of existence by the impact of government tobacco control legislation.

Sales of cigarettes at Abaid Ullah’s Premier Cardenden newsagent, on the town’s Station Road, have decreased by 33 per cent, with the proprietor of the belief that his former customers have not given up smoking but now incorporate their purchase of tobacco into their weekly supermarket shop.

As a result of the loss to revenue through tobacco sales, Mr Ullah has reduced the number of staff he employs by a quarter.

He said: “With the sales falling by around a third, we had to cut down by two staff and now have just six on duty throughout the week.

“Maybe it’s good for the supermarkets, but it’s not for the shopkeepers at small convenience stores.

“We depend on sales of cigarettes and sweets, and if we didn’t sell cigarettes we wouldn’t make enough money to keep going.”

Mr Ullah believes that the tobacco display ban - which will come into force in small shops from April next year - will slow down the transaction process and inconvenience both shopkeepers and customers.

He continued: “A lot of workers come here and they’re always in a hurry.

“We shopkeepers now have the problem of finding the cigarettes – all that does is slow down the process and makes the customer wait longer.

“It doesn’t make the customer not want to buy cigarettes.”

Mr Ullah is critical of the European Union’s Tobacco Control Directive, arguing that banning the sale of packs of 10 cigarettes or menthol cigarettes could have the reverse effect and encourage the already-thriving illicit tobacco market.

“A lot of smokers think that if they buy 20, they’ll smoke 20,” he said.

“Many will buy 10s because they’re trying to stop.

“But, with the new legislation, they won’t have that option.

“Instead, they’ll either buy packs of 20 or go to find illegal tobacco.

“Dealers around here sell door-to-door, and if you know the right guy, illicit tobacco is easy to come by.”

Alongside all the upcoming regulation, the UK Government recently announced it was to proceed with tobacco plain packaging and would hold a final short consultation on the issue.

The European Union’s Tobacco Control Directive will see anti-smoking legislation introduced across the EU in an attempt to cut the number of smokers by 2.4 million.

Under the directive there are a number of rules to be followed in the sale and production of tobacco products including packets must hold no fewer than 20 cigarettes; a ban on flavoured cigarettes; and picture health warnings will have to dominate the front and back of packaging.