England to ban tobacco displays in shops

LONDON - The display of cigarettes and tobacco in shops will be banned in England under proposals outlined by Health Secretary Alan Johnson on Tuesday.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 9 Dec 2008, 6:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:08 PM

The move aims to cut the number of young people starting smoking and follows similar measures planned or already imposed in other countries including Scotland and Canada.

The government estimates that 200,000 children aged between 11-15 are regular smokers despite the withdrawal of all tobacco advertising since 2002 and the raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco to 18 from 16.

But representatives of small grocers and newsagents said they earn up to a third of their revenue from tobacco sales and complained the plan would hit hard a sector already struggling as the economy slides.

‘Enticing multi-coloured displays encourage young people to start smoking --- we must put a stop to this,’ said Johnson.

‘Smoking is a habit which is hard to break and causes 87,000 deaths a year in England alone.’

Johnson quoted evidence from Canada showing that the removal of tobacco displays in shops had coincided with smoking rates among 15 to 19-year-olds falling to 19 from 29 percent over five years.

Legislation will also be introduced to restrict children’s access to tobacco vending machines, which are the primary source for cigarettes for one in five youngsters under 15.

Possible vending machine restrictions include replacing cash sales with tokens which can only be bought from a member of staff on the showing proof of age, as used in Spain and Ireland.

The government will consult with shops and industry before drafting its legislation and said it would allow ‘ample’ lead-in time before the powers take effect to allow business to prepare.

The Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) accused Johnson of indulging in a gimmick that would have no effect on youth smoking rates and could force at least 2,600 shops to close.

‘If the government were serious about that, they would make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco for minors, as we shopkeepers have campaigned for,’ said TRA spokesman Ken Patel.

‘The government promised to help small businesses through the economic downturn-this shows it was just empty rhetoric.’

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