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Retail Display Bans

A key component of any comprehensive tobacco control strategy includes denormalization of the industry and its products. Retail display bans help to denormalize tobacco because such bans remove tobacco products from one of the industry’s most coveted advertising placements, point of sale displays that are in plain view of children and adults.

To learn more about the tobacco industry and retail displays, please see the following articles:

Retail display bans have been addressed in two Canadian provinces thus far: Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A ban on retail and countertop displays was also part of the current Ontario government's election platform.


Saskatchewan is leading the way in North America in banning tobacco product retail displays in convenience stores throughout the province. In March 2002, Saskatchewan’s Tobacco Control Act took effect and removed retail displays from stores. The law requires vendors to use curtains and cabinets to hide cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco behind the counter, or ban minors from their stores.

The retail display ban regulations withstood a constitutional legal challenge launched by Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc. The tobacco company argued that the Saskatchewan regulations contravened its right to freedom of expression and that they were in conflict with the federal legislation allowing stores to display tobacco products. In October 2002, Justice Ron Barclay of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench upheld the law, finding that the province was within its rights to protect the health of young people and that the law was consistent with the federal Tobacco Act. Rothmans Benson & Hedges shortly thereafter gave notice that it will be appealing the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On October 3, 2003, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal struck down the provision in the Saskatchewan Tobacco Control Act prohibiting the visible display of tobacco products in any premise where minors have access, and the provision of the Act banning signs in such stores from being visible to the public. The Court said that the provisions in the Saskatchewan Act were in conflict with the federal Tobacco Act (which did not prohibit such displays and signage) and thus invalid.

At the time the decision was rendered, the federal government, together with the Saskatchewan government, was in court to argue that the Saskatchewan law was valid and not in conflict with the federal Act.

Saskatchewan promptly applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal the judgment. On March 25, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada granted this request. The case (Government of Saskatchewan v. Rothmans, Benson & Hedges) is tentatively scheduled to begin January 18, 2005.

On October 1, 2004, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada filed a motion for permission to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada. If intervener status is granted, it will allow the four agencies to argue before the Supreme Court in support of the Saskatchewan legislation. On October 20th, Justice Marie Deschamps granted intervener status to the four health agencies. Intervener status was also granted to the Western Convenience Store Association, whose members include Petro Canada, Husky Energy, 7-Eleven, Mac's Convenience Stores, Imperial Oil and Short Stop Foods. The federal government and the provincial governments of BC, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI have also intervened in the case.


After the Saskatchewan ruling, the government of Manitoba passed Bill 37, the Non-Smokers Health Protection Amendment Act, which bans tobacco product retail displays in stores and provides other advertising regulations for tobacco products. The legislation takes effect January 1, 2004.

The Canadian Cancer Society prepared a submission to Manitoba Health in support of drafting regulations for tobacco retail display bans.

Due to the October 1, 2003 ruling on the Saskatchewan legislation, the Manitoba government has decided not to enforce its retail display ban pending on the outcome of the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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