Where Did All the Cigarettes Go? (Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto)

by Joey deVilla on June 23, 2008

Joey\'s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto

We’re less than a month away from RubyFringe, the self-described “avant-garde conference for developers that are excited about emerging Ruby projects and technologies” being put on by my friends at Unspace. RubyFringe promises to be 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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin June 23, 2008 at 10:02 am

wow.. our government is amazingly stupid.

They can’t even post non-tobacco related things on the tobacco cabinets?


oh, and your picture up there? The door is too wide. I’ve heard recently that the door can’t be more than two feet wide – I figure that’s to prevent people from accidentally seeing the cigarettes.

2 Joey deVilla June 23, 2008 at 10:05 am

@Justin: It would seem that way — every convenience store I’ve been to doesn’t have anything posted on them. If I were a convenience store owner in Toronto, I’d plaster them with posters for long-distance calling cards or lottery tickets.

3 Nikita Pronin July 17, 2008 at 1:55 am

It might only be me but any government that tells me to buy a special cabinet so people don’t “see my cigarettes” can f right off.

4 Larry November 24, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Ya I live in windsor and I must say that these Rooftop Marlboro Cigarrettes are not exactly a marlboro smoke without the name, … In fact, I find that they slightly (at best) resemble they’re american cousins

why can’t they just sell the origional marlboros in canada? am i missing somthing.

5 bbbh June 19, 2010 at 5:33 am

LOL. American cigarettes are raunchier? In fact, they are much better. I am a dual citizen and I smoked all the Canadian and American cigarettes and American cigarettes are way much better.

Even though the package of Rooftop looks like marlboro, they are pretty different. I brought the real American Marlboro Red to Canada and compared them. Rooftop actually tastes harder (it actually has a few milligrams more tar) and burns roughly. American Marlboro burns much more steadly and balanced much better.

Honestly, Canadian cigarettes taste like shit. The only cigarettes I think ok are Dumaurier, Export A, Player’s and Belmont…

All the other cigarettes like Number 7, Peter Jackson, John Player, Accord, Matinee, Craven A, Canadian Classic, Mirage, Rothmans and MacDonald… THEY ALL TASTE LIKE FUC#KING SHIT!!!!!!!!!!! And they are crazily EXPENSIVE!!!!

Davidoff and Dunhill are pretty good too but they are all manufactured in Europe, not in Canada.

In fact, most Canadians haven’t even smoked American made cigarettes and they just say American cigarettes and products are worse than Canadian stuff. I think they just say it without even smoking American cigarettes or even visiting the US because many Canadians don’t really like America.

If you say you are American they will try to look nice to you but if you pretend to be a 100% Canadian and talk about America, you can clearly see that most of them really hate the States (Especially young people like teens and 20s-30s) Actually, American Marlboro tastes much better. Even though many Canadians always say American cigarettes bad without ever smoking them, if you ever show your American-made Marlboro to them, they will be surprised and say like “Wow, is this Marlboro!!! Is it really from the States?”

I bet you, when a Canadian asks you if you have an extra smoke and you give them a real Marlboro, you will feel like you are a Lamborghini or Ferrari owner. LOL…. That’s what I always do when I come to Canada. Bring a bunch of packs of Marlboro Red and smoke around a mall enterance and people will ask you for a smoke and you proudly give them a Marlboro and they get super surprised and you feel so proud LOL

6 Dan August 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

This is seriously f’ed up. Why can’t the government leave people alone? We know that smoking isn’t safe, why piss everyone off about it? Instead of laboring over the task of how to opress the smoking population, why doesn’t the government solve the health care problem? Or make use of the time, instead of harming an industry that gives the government more tax money than any consumer comoddity, in the bloody world.

7 John August 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Amen Dan,

Rooftop (Canadian marlboro rip offs) do suck and are an an insult to a marlboro cigarrette.
The reason of course is because if you look on the side of the pack it says international blend,
I experienced the real marlboro flavor (American blend) as a young man 10 or so years ago . . . family resideds on bothsides of the border,

I enjoyed them for many years, but as border security and duty tax restrictions became tighter, I could no long enjoy them … then 2-3 years ago (when They started selling these knock off malrboros.) I saw a pack behind the counter and actually got excited, the distinct gold and white design of my favorite smokes, I didnt care that they cost $8.00 I just wanted them … so I bought them, I was almost too excited ( at the time) to realize they didnt taste or smell anything like what a malrboro should smell/taste like, anyways I figured it out soon enough and really just feel violated, thats the best way I can put it. I feel violated and I still miss the joy of a malrboro cigarette

8 Tom Jackson May 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

Alright, its funny when you read about Canadian cigarettes. Canada has banned like every type of tobacco known to man accept Bright leaf Virginia tobacco and I believe Oriental tobacco (95% of Canadas smokes are 100% Virginia) So American cigarettes are always much better because they contain burley, oriental, recon, and brightleaf, and they cure the plant differently so the cigarette tastes and smells completely different (and the tobacco is much darker) Marlboros in Canada are marketed under NEXT and ROOFTOP REDS and they are just without the burley and a few other additives, and they bring the Nicotine down to legal Canadian levels under 4mg (note American Marlboros have like 8g of nicotine.)

9 Ted May 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

The rate of smokers across Canada has been declining in an almost exact ratio to the increase in the cost of cigarettes. This ratio was believed to be scientifically valid, the trend has been studied for some two decades. IHowever, this information may be completely unreliable. My contentious libertarian intuition thinks this ratio reproduced by such government institutions as Statistics Canada is the exact reverse of my experience. The Jean Chrétien administration’s deep decrease in cigarette prices in 1993 actually increased the cost of (illegal), cigarettes while reducing the price significantly for many ‘official’ smokers. Why? The explanation is simple: I was buying smuggled American cigarettes at $30 a carton, whereas with the tax decrease on Canadian cigarettes, it brought the lawful cartons to $35, only a $5 difference. It closed the gap enough to put most illegal suppliers out of business thus forcing me to pay $35 a carton for legal ones and putting me back into the statistics as a smoker. (People smoking illegal cigarettes are registered as non smokers to most data collecting agencies, including Government bureaus and no one really knows the rate of smoking out there in this vast country.) Now with the whopping government tobacco tax increases in the last several years on Canadian cigarettes, once again, the [real] price is falling. Most retail brands are around $75 to $90 per carton, but the highest I’ve ever paid was $52, but, a few months after the second last increase, my price fell to $35, and immediately after the last one – the Native Indian suppliers were in full swing and ready for the increased demand – the price fell to $25 a carton. If you buy native cigarettes unpackaged, unmarked and in bags, you could get two cartons for $30. (That’s $15 for a carton of cigarettes in Canada.) So there you have it. You don’t need to go to Cuba, America or Mexico to find pricing like this. By the way, many of my fellow employees smoke them now – in other words, they are statistically registered as nonsmokers – and that whatever number this group of illegal smokers represent, it is large. The Canadian Government says mean smoking has fallen to just 18% (compared to Japan’s 27% and the USA’s 21%).

10 akbar July 6, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Rooftops actually taste much better and burn better than the American Marlboro lights. I smoked marlboro lights in the United States for seven years. And I find the rooftop very similar and better.

11 Greg February 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Well.. its 4 years into the future… the cabinets are not a problem.. its the fkn name changes!!! distinct, gold, balanced, and theres no more ingrediants … yep from 2008 to now 2013.. Smoking is bad for you, and banned and covered up but… we wont even tell you whats in it anymore… last week some chick I know bought some indian smokes ( id never!) and she lit it smoked it.. and it was burnin and canoeing, and lookie there!! a piece of wood in it.

Im thinkin.. they took the ingrediants off.. to slowly lower the nicotene, and make people actually smoke MORE.. My dumaurier distincts, are never consistant, I was smoking balanced for 4 months all great!!.. perfect from the discontinued craven a gold regulars.. then the balanced got weaker.. and weaker each pack.. im like theres are like super ultra light now.. and onto distinct.. which are going the same way.. sometimes theres no difference in eithr smoke. Bring back my craven a gold REGULAR packs. and fk kingsize smokes.

( this has been an example of what the country would be like if they instantly banned smoked all in one day, except over the past 5 years.. im pissed!! I kill YOU!.)

12 Gerald Witter July 25, 2017 at 6:28 pm

I have to say I was at the duty free shop and saw the rooftop brand and said dam they must be Marlboro. As they are. BUT they do not taste the same. The rooftop is not as smooth or taste anything like the Marlboro. I’m not going to get into the poo poo match witch country has the better cigarette but I find the Marlboro much better. Price was right though at 39.95 a carton.

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