The government have today announced a new initiative in the battle to reduce the number of smokers in Britain. Cigarettes will no longer be allowed to be seen out on display in shops and supermarkets.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson revealed that the change will be implemented by 2011 for supermarkets and 2013 for small shops/newsagents. Ministers voted not to implement the prohibition sooner as it was felt that shop owners and small businesses would need a little more time to make the changes in the light in the recession.
Alan Johnson also released confirmed details of the ruling on cigarette machines in pubs. It had been put forward that they should be removed altogether but this was abandoned in favour of using tokens in the machine.
In order to buy tokens, customers must prove they are 18. In addition there will be more significant health warnings on the machines, advising young people about the dangers of smoking.
Today’s announcement comes after a delay on the initiative, which was led by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson and supported by the Prime Minister and MP’s from all parties.
It was argued that an immediate ban - as proposed - would be devastating to the already flagging profitability of small businesses. The opposition was so strong that there had been talks of a Commons rebellion, had the plans gone ahead straight away as planned.
It looked likely that the ban would not be implemented straight away after the Queen failed to mention it in her speech last week, where the government lays out changes to legislation for the coming parliamentary year.
Gordon Brown did make an appearance however, to announce that the ban would be far from dropped - only rolled out over a few years. He told MP’s last month that the fact smoking rates for children had only dropped from 13 to six percent was “not good enough”. Official records reported in 2007 that nearly 200,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 were regular smokers.
Other initiatives the government have introduced to try and tackle the problem include increasing the age to buy tobacco from 16 to 18 as well as passing new laws banning smoking in public places.
To back up the prohibition, Mr Johnson said in his speech that evidence shows from other countries that the smoking rate of children was reduced by up to 10 per cent after cigarettes were banned from public display.
He also promised a “fully inclusive” implementation across the country, and would ensure businesses would be given help and support to cope with the impact.
However, the Conservatives are against the plans and are concerned there will not be a difference to smoking rates and the implementation could “destroy local corner shops and newsagents that are already suffering now”.
From the Liberal Democrat corner, concerns were raised that the buying of illegal foreign cigarettes would potentially rise as a result.