In most cases the tobacco rep comes around once a month or so and takes care of the old product found on the shelf, by giving them credit for it, or putting a sticker on it to allow the distributor to replace the carton.
They do not take them back unless they are way out of date by over a year, and the store owners only choice is to sell them if they don't allow them to be returned.
Years ago i was told, by a marlboro quality department employee, that the "average shelf - life" for cigarettes is 3 months, depending on storage conditions.
At that time their company would admit selling an old, inferior product, and replace them freely. Now their employees are trained to deny this and claim staleness of cigarettes is "objective", while the whole time avoiding the issue, which is that their product is being sold at full retail price despite the fact that it is far outdated, and so stale (From an objective point of view.) Check the date code on the bottom of your marlboro cigarettes before buying, and if the julian date is in the 2 or 300's, with a "9" following the letter "y" or "z", do not buy unless your wish to pay full retail for stale cigarettes.
Cigarettes should be well stored and kept at right temperature right away even if its just delivered and the companies should do something about this!