The power wall problem
"Power Walls”, the large displays of cigarettes found behind cash
registers at convenience stores, gas outlets and other tobacco retailers
are important cigarette promotional vehicle. The importance of these
displays has grown since restrictions were placed on mainstream
advertising. (For a review of Canada's tobacco restrictions, see
our last edition)
Tobacco companies have increased their focus on retail promotions, and
accordingly increased their spending on these displays. Canadian tobacco
companies spent $60 million on retail promotions, including payments to
retailers and in-store signage, in 1996, but $90 million in 2004.
Support for these displays comes in form of cash,
equipment, and prizes are exchanged for prime retail space, fully
stocked shelves, and regulatory opposition. BAT industry documents
reveal that “impulse sales are lost when stock is not available or
cannot easily be seen or reached”; this is extremely significant since
more than 60% of tobacco purchases are impulse buys. Studies conducted
during the 1990’s concluded that cigarette retail displays increase
average tobacco sales between 12-28%. 
Health Canada commissioned research
confirms that Canadians recognize that these displays are really just
another form of tobacco advertising. "The typical wall of
cigarettes in a retail establishment is clearly perceived to be a form
of advertising. Moreover, such displays have a significantly greater
influence on younger smokers compared with older smokers in terms of
encouraging them to smoke more often."
Not surprisingly, the report found
that people buy cigarettes where they are most promoted - at convenience
outlets and, increasingly, gas outlets.
The same report found that
- 77% of Canadians considered the
wall of cigarettes to be a form of advertising.
- 53% of Canadians believe
displays promoting cigarettes encourage young people to be more likely
- 17% of smokers aged 18-34
said seeing the wall of cigarettes makes them want to purchase
cigarettes more often.
- 64% of Canadians think there
should be some form of restriction on the display of cigarettes at
Governments are responding
with bans on retail displays.
Recognizing the impact of
“power walls”, governments have made several moves towards banning
Thailand, and some Australian states have either restricted or banned the
visible display of tobacco products.
Although the Canadian federal government has the authority to ban all visible retail displays of tobacco
products, such authority has not yet been exercised. However,
Nunavut have banned such displays, and Ontario and Quebec
and Prince Edward Island have passed laws which will ban these displays.