England to ban tobacco displays in shops

LONDON (Reuters) - The display of cigarettes and tobacco in shops will be banned in England under proposals outlined by Health Secretary Alan Johnson on Tuesday.

The move aims to cut the number of young people starting smoking and follows similar measures planned or already imposed in other countries including Scotland and Canada.

The government estimates that 200,000 children aged between 11-15 are regular smokers despite the withdrawal of all tobacco advertising since 2002 and the raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco to 18 from 16.

But representatives of small grocers and newsagents said they earn up to a third of their revenue from tobacco sales and complained the plan would hit hard a sector already struggling as the economy slides.

“Enticing multi-colored displays encourage young people to start smoking — we must put a stop to this,” said Johnson.

Legislation will also be introduced to restrict children’s access to tobacco vending machines, which are the primary source for cigarettes for one in five youngsters under 15.

Possible vending machine restrictions include replacing cash sales with tokens which can only be bought from a member of staff on the showing proof of age, as used in Spain and Ireland.

The government will consult with shops and industry before drafting its legislation and said it would allow “ample” lead-in time before the powers take effect to allow business to prepare.


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