ASH welcomes the government's announcement that tobacco products are to be removed from public view as part of a range of measures to protect children from tobacco marketing. Although it is disappointing that tobacco sales will still be permitted from vending machines, overall tobacco marketing will be virtually eliminated by the display ban, protecting children and smokers trying to quit. This measure will put England amongst a small group of countries that have already passed such legislation. [2] Evidence from other jurisdictions with such legislation already in place suggests that this will reduce the numbers of young people taking up smoking, costs to businesses can be minimal, and that no shops have been forced to close as a result. [1]

ASH Director, Deborah Arnott said:

"The Government is to be congratulated on getting rid of these deadly displays, temptingly placed to attract children right by the sweet counter in corner shops, newsagents, supermarkets and petrol stations throughout the land. Claims that businesses will fail because of this measure are unfounded. In other countries which have brought in such measures they have been both popular and effective, without putting shops out of business."

ASH is also pleased that the government is taking seriously the proposal to require plain packaging of tobacco products and urges it to go farther and faster. Prohibiting retail display is only half the battle, to complete the job tobacco packaging must be standardised so all attractive and promotional aspects are removed, save for the brand name. The tobacco industry itself admits that the cigarette pack is "the communication life-blood of the firm…. the silent salesman", an essential weapon in the struggle to recruit smokers now traditional advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned. [3]

On vending machines ASH urges the government to go further and announce a complete ban, not just to further restrict access. The current guidelines are already supposed to ensure that tobacco vending machines are located only in places not routinely accessed by children such as pubs and clubs. However these have clearly failed since 14% of smokers under the age of 16 report that they usually purchase cigarettes from vending machines. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the modification of vending machines to 'child-proof' them is effective in stopping illegal sales. [4]

"Further restricting access to vending machines as opposed to banning sales of tobacco products altogether is a half-baked measure. It will do little or nothing to reduce under-age smoking, whilst incurring additional costs to vending machine manufacturers."

Note and links

[1] For more information on prohibition of retail display see ASH briefing here.

[2] The following jurisdictions have passed legislation to ban tobacco displays at the point of sale: Two countries (Iceland, Thailand), 12 Canadian provinces and territories, the Australian state of Tasmania, and the British Virgin Islands have adopted laws to prohibit the visible display of tobacco products at point of purchase.

Countries (3)

1. Iceland (August 1, 2001)
2. Thailand (September 24, 2005)
3. Ireland (July 2009)

Canada (12 of 13 provinces/territories)

1. Saskatchewan (March 11, 2002)*
2. Manitoba (January 1, 2004)*
3. Nunavut (February 1, 2004)
4. Prince Edward Island (June 1, 2006)
5. Northwest Territories (Jan. 21, 2007)*
6. Nova Scotia (March 31, 2007)
7. British Columbia (March 31, 2008)**
8. Ontario (May 31, 2008)
9. Quebec (May 31, 2008)
10. Alberta (July 1, 2008)
11. New Brunswick (Jan. 1, 2009)
12. Yukon Territory (May 15, 2009)
13. Ireland (1 July 2009)
Australian states
1. Tasmania (Feb. 1, 2011)

Other
1. British Virgin Islands (May 31, 2007) (British territory, Caribbean)

[3] For more information on plain packaging see ASH briefing here.
[4] For more information on vending machines see the ASH briefing here.

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