Oakham starts selling smokes

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By Tim Cook

After three months of meetings, errors and bureaucracy, the Ram in the Rye has finally gotten into the cigarette business.

Oakham House received approval from Ryerson’s board of governors and the city to sell tobacco products in the basement pub.

Since Feb. 10, the bar has offered three brands — du Maurier, Players and Matinee — each retailing for $3.25 for a 20-pack, up to 75 cents less than in stores.

Cigarettes would have made their way behind the bar a lot sooner than last week if it weren’t for delays in obtaining a tobacco sales licence from the municipal government.

Oakham House made a mistake when filling out the original application for the licence, which wasn’t realized until mid-January. But the time the error was corrected, files at City Hall had become divided and needed to be recompiled.

All this meant that the application process, which normally takes six to eight weeks, took nearly three months.

“I don’t blame City Hall for the delay,” said Dale McNichol, Oakham House’s managing director. A merger of two of Canada’s three major tobacco companies also slowed the process. The decrease in competition meant Oakham House lost interest from tobacco companies in getting its business.

“At the start of this process they were all reaching into their pockets and writing us cheques,” McNichol said. “But after the merger all that dried up.”

He did negotiate the free use of a case to display cigarettes, saving the bar more than $500.

McNichol has been trying to get cigarettes at the pub for some time. In mid-November, the Oakham House management board passed a motion to allow cigarette sales in the Ram in the Rye with the condition that percentage of profit be put aside for a smoking cessation program. The management board hasn’t decided yet how much will be set aside.

McNichol said Oakham House is not out to make money on tobacco sales, but to provide them as a service to students.

“But we don’t want our prices to be so low that it encourages people to smoke,” he said.

Marc Van Hezewyk, a second-year mechanical engineering student, said having cigarettes available on campus won’t prompt students to smoke. “I dont think there is anything wrong with it,” he said. “People are going to buy them anyways so they might as well buy them here.”

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