Coalition considers reversing tobacco display ban

Tobacco display ban set to be introduced for larger shops in 2011
Tobacco display ban set to be introduced for larger shops in 2011

By Alex Stevenson

The tobacco display plan could be scrapped by the coalition government as part of a wider review of regulation, sources have confirmed.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) spokesperson told that the display ban, contested by retailers but supported by health groups, fell within the scope of a review of all regulation 'in the pipeline' to be introduced between June 2010 and April 2011.

It follows a comment by business secretary Vince Cable that the government was giving "urgent consideration" to the issue.

The Bis spokesperson added that the tobacco display ban had "not been singled out specifically", however.

The ban, which followed legislation by the Labour government, plans to prevent retailers displaying tobacco products. It will be introduced in stages, starting with large shops in 2011 and finishing with other shops in 2013.

But a Populus poll for the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), which opposes the ban, suggested the public were not inclined to back the move.

Nearly 80% said the plans should be withdrawn or they would not oppose their withdrawal.

And just 23% thought the display ban would be ineffective in reducing smoking, compared to 76% for strongly enforcing existing laws to prevent smoking and 64% supporting a clampdown on tobacco smuggling.

Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) pointed out Ireland's experience suggests the impact of the display ban on retailers is very limited, however.

Ireland's Office of Tobacco Control said the number of 15- to 18-year-olds who believed they could buy cigarettes had fallen by one-third since Ireland's display ban was introduced 12 months ago, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

"This week we learn that fewer young people in Ireland believe they can buy cigarettes than before the ban and, with a year's experience to draw from, public support has risen to 68%," Ash's director of policy and research Martin Dockrell said.

"Nor has it been expensive for retailers, a survey from the Association of Convenience Stores shows that the average cost for small shops to comply with the legislation was just £300."

NFRN national president Parminder Singh said both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, having "stood against" when they were in opposition, should act decisively to reverse the ban.

"It is precisely the kind of measure that should be first in the deregulation firing line: unwanted, unworkable, unnecessarily costly for struggling small businesses and proven not to achieve its objectives," he said.


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