RubyFringe Guide: Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?

by Joey deVilla on June 23, 2008

Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto

Joey\'s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto

In less than a month, the RubyFringe conference will be taking place here in Accordion City (it takes place from July 18th through 20th). RubyFringe is an offbeat conference organized by the offbeat people at Unspace, an offbeat software development shop, with offbeat speakers and MCs (I’m one of them) making some offbeat presentations, which will be followed by offbeat evening events. It stands to reason that it should come with an offbeat guide to its host city, and who better than Yours Truly, one of the city’s most notorious bloggers and a long-time resident, to write one?

From now until RubyFringe, I’ll be writing a series of articles posted under the banner of Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, which will cover interesting things to do and see here in Accordion City. It’ll mostly be dedicated to the areas in which RubyFringe and associated events will be taking place and provide useful information about Toronto for people who’ve never been here (or even Canada) before. I’ll also try to cover some interesting stuff that the tourist books and sites don’t. If you’re coming up here — for RubyFringe or some other reason — I hope you’ll find this guide useful.

I thought I’d start the series by covering a topic with which I have almost no familiarity: smoking. It’s a safe bet that at least a few smokers will be coming to the conference from outside Ontario: if you’re one of these people, this article’s for you.

The Rules for Smoking in Ontario

If you really feel like poring over a legal document, you can read the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. If you’d rather not slog through the legalese, they can be boiled down to these two rules:

  • You have to be at least 19 years old to purchase cigrarettes.
  • No smoking indoors in public places.

Canadian Cigarette Brands

You’re going to have to ask someone else about which Canadian brands to smoke. Beyond “quit now,” I can’t really make any recommendations. What I know about Canadian cigarettes versus American ones isn’t much:

  • I am told that American cigarettes are “raunchier” than Canadian cigarettes. Can any cross-border smokers comment on this?
  • If you’re really homesick for Marlboros, you can get “Rooftop” brand cigarettes, which are Marlboros with packaging that makes use of Marlboro’s “rooftop” design but not the word “Marlboro”. The cigarette marketing site Filter Tips explains these “no-name” Marlboros, if you’re interested.

Canadian Cigarette Warning Labels

If you’re a smoker coming in from the United States and don’t travel outside the country much, you might not be aware that your country has the teeniest cigarette warning labels in the world, despite being the first to put warnings on cigarette packs in the first place.

Here in Canada, cigarettes have to devote half the visible surface of cigarette packaging to health warnings, which have livelier copy and are backed with pictures. Here are my two favourite warnings: first, the “mouth cancer” one…

Canadian cigarette warning label: \"Cigarettes cause mouth diseases\"

…and the “trying to stick a marshmallow into a parking meter” one:

Canadian cigarette warning label: \"Tobacco use can make you impotent\"

If you’re going to ignore the warnings, you might as well be entertained by them, right?

Canadian Cigarette Displays

And finally, I’ll come to the title of this post, Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?

If you set foot into a convenience store here, the first thing you’ll notice after the bilingual packaging is that there are no cigarettes to be seen. What you might see is a blank wall behind the shopkeeper that is almost completely devoid of features or markings. It’s a cigarette cabinet:

Artcube cigarette cabinets
An Artcube cigarette cabinet.

This started only a couple of weeks ago in Ontario, when the law banning the open display of cigarettes in stores came into effect. This “out of sight, out of mind”-inspired law requires people who sell cigarettes to store them in featureless cabinets, and it seems that they’re not allowed to post anything on them, even if it’s not tobacco-related. If you wander into a convenience store and are wondering where the cancer sticks are, they’re in the blank cabinets.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

kat f. June 23, 2008 at 11:00 am

that’s interesting, because the convenience store that i frequent has the cabinet, but it is covered in post-its, denoting what’s underneath the doors.
hmm.

Chris Taylor June 23, 2008 at 11:08 am

I don’t smoke, but I noticed last week that the vendors in the PATH had started covering the cigs up with white featureless coverings. I thought they were some kind of half-assed anti-theft measure.

Joey deVilla June 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm

@kat f.: That’s one of the usability problems caused by these cabinets: the customer can’t see the cigarettes, but neither can the vendor! Hence the workaround with the Post-Its, which technically undoes what the law is trying to do. I suppose a more compliant way of making the vendor’s life easier might be to rearrange the cigarettes so that the brands are in alphabetical order.

The use of Post-Its should be used as a lesson for product designers: if you make your products hard to use, your users will invent solutions that may end up running counter to the desired effect.

Luke Francl June 23, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Thanks for doing this, Joey!

This one isn’t too useful to me since I don’t smoke but it is pretty interesting. I dig the creepy photo warnings. I took a picture of the huge SMOKING KILLS warnings in the UK (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lukefrancl/745872183/) but this is a whole new level.

Looking forward to future installments…

chiamattt June 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm

I smoke and I think most, if not all ‘tobacco-related legislation’ is USELESS. Let the market decide. McDonald’s (not the best example, I know) has been smoke free for how long? Was it because of a law? No. It was because McDonald’s is a “family” restaurant. The government (both federal and provincial) like to talk about the “cost” of smoking on the health care industry, and the “public” like to make smokers feel guilty for smoking. Why?

I am fine not smoking in an establishment that DECIDES to be non-smoking, just like I am fine not smoking at a friends house who isn’t a smoker. I’m even fine not smoking on an airplane.

But I am not fine with the fact that I can’t open a small business (a small bar or something) which allows smoking inside. Adults can decide if they want to enter an establishment which allows smoking. If you don’t like Diva House, do you go to a club that plays Diva House? No.

In all honesty, it’ll be a sad day when there are no smokers, because all you non-smokers are going to have to pay a shit load more on your taxes.

For all of you who love the Canadian health care system and love to rail against smokers and the tobacco industry, chew on this:

“This naked money grab is justified by one central myth: that the industry gets a free ride on public health care. The facts say otherwise. A 2000 study estimated that Canada’s direct health care costs due to tobacco are about $2.68 billion a year. A similar 1991 federal government study reached roughly the same conclusion. By comparison, the federal and provincial governments reaped about $7.69 billion in tobacco taxes last year, up 57 per cent from a decade earlier. Some free ride. If anything, smokers help subsidize health care for the rest of us.”

With all the “health care is broke” bullshit going around, it certainly isn’t smokers who are stressing the system.

ugh, I ranted on this more at:
http://smokehard.com/2008/smoking-a-global-update/

kat f. June 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm

if i had a cameraphone and some ninja-stealth it might be interesting to go around to some of my local convenience stores and see how common the post-it situation is…

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