Tobacco display ban announced

The government has announced it will press ahead with a tobacco display ban.

Tobacco will have to be kept out of sight in shops except for temporary displays in certain limited circumstances.

The regulations will come into force later than had originally been planned – on April 6, 2012 for large shops and April 6, 2015 for smaller shops.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We are disappointed that the government is pressing ahead with a tobacco display ban imposing £40 million of costs on small retailers.

“There simply isn’t the evidence to suggest that the measure will reduce smoking among young people. The concessions made are not sufficient to allay the long-term harm that this measure will cause for local shops.”

Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “The TMA is pleased that the government has decided to delay the implementation of the display ban. However, the coalition parties were opposed to the ban before the general election in 2010 and we hope they will review the legislation again and decide to revoke it.

“There is no credible evidence to support the stated public health objective that restricting tobacco displays will reduce youth smoking levels. The TMA shares the government’s view that minors should not smoke and they should not have access to tobacco products.

"Proof of age schemes and rigorous enforcement of laws on under-age sales are more effective solutions to the issue of preventing youth access to tobacco and the TMA is fully committed to supporting these activities."

The size of the display retailers will be allowed while serving customers or carrying out stocktaking or maintenance work while customers are in the shop has been increased from 0.75sq m to 1.5sq m, giving retailers greater flexibility than had been anticipated.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is also expected to use No Smoking Day today (March 9) to announce that cigarettes will have to be sold in plain packs, according to press reports.

Ogden said: “The TMA is strongly opposed to the principle of plain packaging and would expect a genuine consultation and regulatory impact assessment if the government decides to pursue this further.

"We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence.

"Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the government in breach of legal obligations relating to intellectual property, international trade and European law.  

"Plain packs are also likely to lead to yet further increases in the smuggling of tobacco products and plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs, making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products."