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Tobacco giants lose bid to keep cigarettes on display in Scottish shops

ONE of the world’s largest tobacco firms has lost its latest legal challenge to plans for a ban on the open display of cigarettes in shops.

Imperial Tobacco’s appeal was unanimously dismissed by three senior judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today.

The company’s civil action, which also opposed a ban on tobacco vending machines, delayed the implementation of the Scottish Government’s measures which are aimed at stopping young people from taking up smoking.

No date has yet been set for the bans to be brought in and Imperial Tobacco has not ruled out a further appeal against the ruling.

The court’s latest decision was however welcomed by Scotland’s Public Health Minister Michael Matheson, who said the proposals would play a “crucial role” in preventing youngsters from starting to smoke.

The Scottish Parliament backed the measures in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act in January 2010, which was granted Royal Assent two months later.

Bristol-based Imperial went to court to try to overturn the plans, claiming they fell outside the legislative scope of Holyrood.

A judge rejected the the firm’s arguments in September 2010, saying none of the challenges were “well founded”.

Imperial, the firm behind the Lambert & Butler and Richmond cigarette brands, appealed against that decision but its case was once again rejected today.

The ruling was given by Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lords Reed and Brodie.

Lord Hamilton said of the display ban: “Such display is conceived to encourage the purchase of such products. As the consumption, particularly by smoking, of such products is believed to be adverse to health, section one is designed to inhibit, without prohibiting, their purchase.”

He added that the proposed vending machine ban related to the “ready access” by children and young people to tobacco products.

He wrote: “Such ready access is conceived to be harmful as it facilitates the acquisition and ultimate smoking, by children and young persons, of tobacco products.

“Section nine is designed, again by a criminal sanction, to prevent children and young people, as well as other persons, from having such ready access to tobacco products.

“The risk which the smoking of tobacco products is perceived to present is to health, primarily of the smokers as consumers but also of those non-smokers who may be exposed to a smoke-filled environment and, by passive smoking, suffer adverse affection.”

He said it was not without significance that Westminster has already made equivalent measures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mrl Matheson said he was “delighted” with the ruling.

“Each year in Scotland 15,000 children and young people start smoking and the potential impact on their health is frightening,” he said.

“A child who starts smoking at 15 or younger is three times more likely to die of cancer as a result than someone who starts smoking in their mid-20s.

“It is within the context of protecting future generations from the devastating effects of smoking that the measures set out in our Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 should be viewed.

“The ban on tobacco sales from automatic vending machines and the ban on display of tobacco and smoking-related products in shops have a crucial role to play in preventing the children of today becoming tomorrow’s smokers.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said they were not yet in a position to name a date for the bans to be brought in.

A separate legal challenge to the ban on cigarette vending machines, raised by another firm, is still before the courts.

Imperial Tobacco has not ruled out taking a fresh appeal to the UK Supreme Court. However, the company said it would need to look at the judgment in detail before making a decision. A spokesman said: “Clearly we’re disappointed. We’ll be reviewing the judgment with a view to appealing it.”

Anti-tobacco charity ASH Scotland welcomed the ruling. Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “This was a typically cynical attempt to undermine our democratically elected Scottish Parliament, years of accumulated research evidence and the well-being of the Scottish people, purely to protect their own profits.

“Tobacco is not a normal product. It kills half of those who use it and damages the health of those who are exposed to it through no choice of their own.”

Vicky Crichton, Cancer Research UK public affairs manager, said: “We welcome this ruling by appeal court judges. We hope this judgment allows Scotland to move forward with plans to protect future generations of children by putting tobacco out of sight and out of mind.

“One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely because of smoking and most become addicted as teenagers, so it is vital that everything possible is done to make cigarettes less appealing to children.”

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