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One month to go before tobacco display ban

The tobacco display ban will come into force for large retailers next month (image © Maree)

By Jon Whiteaker – 12:21PM – Tue 6th March 2012

With only a month to go before the enforcement of the tobacco display ban, all large retail stores are having to adapt their stores in time for the change in law.

On April 6th 2012 any retail stores larger than 3,013 sq ft (or 280 sq m) will have to keep all tobacco products out of sight of their customers, in an attempt by government to reduce cigarette smoking among young people, increase the numbers of those giving up and change attitudes to the habit.

Retail industry groups such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have criticised the move however, complaining that the new law is expensive for retailers at a time when finances are tight for many and that there is little evidence that the changes will have the desired affect.

Supermarket chains Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative and Waitrose have already been trialling the scheme, which the BRC estimates will effect as many as 6,834 shops and will cost £2,285 per store for the refitting alone.

Andrew Opie, Food Director at the BRC, also criticised the government’s suggestion that it may introduce plain packaging for all cigarette packages, which he argues make the impending law change pointless.

“Implementing the tobacco display ban is inconsistent, irrational and fails the government’s own better regulation principles,” Opie argued.

“It’s crazy to have forced large retailers to spend millions installing new shelves, introducing new signage and re-training staff while the same department is still considering new rules on packaging. If a decision is taken to go ahead with plain packaging, hiding tobacco products from view in store becomes irrelevant.”

Although Opie says that retailers are happy and willing to work with government to improve national health levels, he argues that the costs of the initiative will far exceed the official estimate of £2.4 million and in reality cost the industry around £15.6 million.

The government however has the support of charity organisations such as Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) and Cancer Research which argue that the law will help to cut down smoking numbers and be relatively easy for retailers to implement.

Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, commented: “Despite the scare stories put out by the tobacco industry in the past, the countdown to implementation is going smoothly.

“Indeed many retailers have already covered up their displays and manufacturers are meeting the cost of adapting tobacco gantries with inexpensive covers, just as we said they would.

“In Canada and Ireland retailers found no short term impact on tobacco sales and no growth in smuggling. There’s no reason why it should be any different here.”

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