The morals of selling cigarettes

Was in the barber shop the other day. While waiting, took a look at the reading offerings. A bit sparse that day, so I glanced through a recent issue of Australian Convenience Store News.

It’s when you read stuff like this that you get an insight into the things that happen all around you that you never really take any notice of. The convenience store industry (and I suppose this includes my barber) sells a lot of tobacco products, and judging from the article in that issue, they’re having to adjust somewhat to the legislation surrounding the advertising and display of products. The mag pushes “responsible” retailing, which I suppose is code for “don’t sell products that are lethal to people unless they’re over 18.”

I do sometimes wonder what the attitude of these retailers is. Morals, scruples, that kind of thing. It would appear that cigarette sales account for a considerable proportion of their income, and though the likelihood is the people in the shop don’t smoke, they obviously appreciate the money it brings in. Maybe they just figure if they weren’t selling it, someone else would.

The mag talked about diversifying into related products, as the squeeze on smoking continues, and each year less people smoke (less than 25% of Australians these days). There are accessory products (such as lighters) and other related ranges (such as roll-your-own products and cigars). It reminded retailers to be sure of the relevant regulations. Responsible retailing.

Also in the magazine was a comprehensive report showing best selling products around Australia by state and by category. (Number 1 in drinks? Coke and other Coca Cola Company products, with 58% of the drink sales. Sales of drinks and most other categories are up; sales of bread down.)

Maybe I was more interested than the average person because I once worked for a company making petrol station software. It filled the ten minutes waiting for the barber, anyway.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

4 replies on “The morals of selling cigarettes”

I agree the trade mags are good read. And I’m glad the barber has good reading material – the doctors I was at this morning was better than average (Womens Day, Womens Weekly, Melbourne’s Child and Golf) but not quite my taste.


The other thing is the variation in smoking rates – I’d estimate 15% (Canberra public servants), 40% (transport industry), and most relevant here, retail (40%).

Peter (Meltrip), why would you say that 40% of people in retail smoke? Why retail specifically? Your figures do seem to be about right for the transport industry, as I very regularly see bus drivers as well as train & tram drivers having smokos, pity that some of them see no problem with blowing their smoke in the faces of paying passengers.

And more public servants in Canberra smoke than you think. Theres often a decent amount of people standing outside building exits having smokes at government office buildings in Canberra. Just as many as shopping centre exits sometimes.

Somebody, the 40% was a guess, based on 6 years working in electronics retail (where the workforce is skewed towards under 40 males).

Other sectors may have similar ratios, but as I haven’t worked elsewhere I didn’t comment.

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