A ban on tobacco displays has come into effect in England on April 6. The ban initially applies to large stores only. The UK government's aim is to reduce the numbers of young people taking up smoking.
The ban on supermarkets displaying tobacco products was enacted by the UK Parliament and began on April 6. The BBC reports that this means that, in England, cigarettes and other tobacco products will have to be kept below the counter. Smaller retail outlets being given an exemption until 2015.
Other parts of the UK, for which such matters fall in the remit of the dissolved assemblies, have not yet imposed similar bans.
According to The Guardian, anti-smoking campaigners had argued that displays of tobacco products, particularly colorful cigarette packets, had become more visual and attractive and were often displayed alongside candy and sweets, which had 'normalized' tobacco in the minds of children.
The Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) has reacted to the news saying that it is disappointing and that their attempts to lobby the government had failed. A spokesperson for the TRA, Debbie Corris, said in a press release:
“The Government is banning tobacco displays in the hopes it will lower youth smoking rates. Yet there is still no credible evidence that a ban will have any effects on youth smoking levels beyond the reduction which is happening already. The same lack of credible evidence goes for plain packaging, which the government is looking at next in efforts to reduce youth smoking, and so all retailers - no matter the size of their shop - must get ready to fight their case when the government’s consultation on plain packaging is launched in the next few weeks.”
In contrast, the anti-smoking group ASH have said in their own press release "Since the ban on tobacco advertising in the UK in 2003, tobacco companies have become increasingly reliant on displays at the point of sale to draw attention to their products and stimulate sales. Evidence shows that children are more likely to smoke if they are exposed to in-store tobacco marketing."
The Daily Mail notes that England is now following a slow, but growing, international trend. Countries including Canada, Ireland, Iceland and Finland, have already introduced similar bans.