Store co-owner Tracy Rewega-Hill and manager Steve Anderson began discussing the move six months ago, and recently decided to take action.
“We are probably the first grocery store in the Northwest Territories, at least that I know of, that has taken that category out of our assortment,” said Anderson.
Rewega-Hill explained the decision was made after noticing some of her staff selling tobacco products to customers.
Super A employs many of Hay River’s youth, who come to the store for their first jobs.
“You have to be 19 to purchase tobacco, but you can have a cashier who is 12 serve someone tobacco,” said Rewega-Hill. “I don’t like it. I’ve never liked it.”
She believes in discouraging youth from smoking, and that it is contradictory to allow them to serve tobacco. “We’re trying to get kids to not start smoking, but yet they are serving it.”
Anderson noted the decision to remove tobacco from the grocery store is in no way intended to make a judgment on customers’ lifestyle choices.
“We are not here to judge our customers,” he said. “This is more directed towards our young cashiers. We want to portray a positive image for them. We want to make sure the environment they come into is safe.”
Anderson said, as a business, removing tobacco from the Super A product inventory is a big step, but one they see as worth the hit.
“It will impact our sales,” he said, “but we are willing to give it up for the health of our store and of the community.”
Rewega-Hill said the feedback so far from the public has been positive, with only a slight buzz being created during the first few days of halted sales.
“It created a little bit of a buzz, but in the long run it will benefit everyone’s health,” she said.
“It’s more for the children,” added Anderson. “Their future is important. Profit is one thing, but looking after the customers is the bigger picture of it all.”
Anderson noted tobacco products, along with the energy drinks also removed from Super A, are still available at the nearby convenience store side of the business.