When time was running out to buy cigarettes from a machine

For 14 quarters, or $3.50, smokers could get their fix via vending machines in 1988. But cartons were more cost-effective and the machines didn't accept the new dollar coin.

Vending machines for smokes were no longer profitable in 1988

Cigarettes from a machine

34 years ago
Duration 1:22
It looked as if the era of buying smokes from a vending machine was soon to expire in 1988. 1:22

When buying cigarettes in 1988, the vending machine was the original self-checkout.

It was convenient: there was never a lineup at a vending machine.

"Smokers who run out can saunter up to their favourite machine unimpeded," said CBC Halifax reporter Phil Forgeron on Jan. 13, 1988. 

"And a nicotine renewal is just a handful of quarters away."

14 quarters, to be exact

A stack of 14 quarters would buy one small package of cigarettes at a vending machine. On the plus side: no waiting. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

As the camera showed a buyer's hands feeding coin after coin into a machine that offered up to 14 brands of butts, Forgeron got to the point.

"Fewer smokers are getting their cigarettes from machines," he said.

According to Lloyd Dauphinee of Bluenose Vending, unit sales — i.e., individual package sales — were down about 30 per cent.

Cheaper at the store

Convenience stores sold cartons as well as cigarettes for $2.99 a package, both of which were more cost-effective than vending machines. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"The smart smoker — if there is such a thing — is getting supplies by the carton," said the reporter. A carton consisted of eight packs of cigarettes.

A large pack went for under $3 at a store. A small pack, meanwhile, cost $3.50 from a machine.

"The cigarette vending machines will be ... as time goes on, replaced [by] other merchandise machines," said Dauphinee.

Some vending companies' machines couldn't be adapted to accept the new dollar coin. Converting them just wasn't worth the money it would cost.

'Super mailboxes, move over'

Sales of cigarette packages from machines were down about 30 per cent, said a vending machine operator. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

For one company, the decline in vending-machine profitably had spurred innovation.

"Super mailboxes, move over," said Forgeron. "There's supervendor coming."

The camera showed a machine in which cigarette brands including duMaurier, Export A and Player's shared space with Hostess chips, Hawkins Cheezies and Caramilk chocolate bars.    

"A few cigarettes, some candy bars, chips, cheesies," said the reporter. "A little crunch to go with the cough."

According to the Globe and Mail, the Nova Scotia government announced its intention to ban cigarette vending machines in September 1993.

Vending-machine companies innovated by putting cigarettes and snacks together in the same unit. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

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