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Iain Watkins
Published:  01 July, 2008

== Why has the government proposed to ban or restrict tobacco displays in shops? ==

The government believes that if young people were prevented from seeing tobacco in shops they would not smoke.

== This sounds a bit incredulous. Has this happened in countries that have already banned displays? ==

When the display of tobacco was banned in Iceland in 2001 there was no marked decrease in teenage smoking rates according to the official statistics. In fact in the Canadian state of Saskatchewan where a similar display ban was introduced in 2005, smoking incidence has gone up to 25% of the total adult population since 2006, according to the government body Health Canada.

== Surely banning tobacco displays only penalises legitimate retailers who pay rent and rates as opposed to the black market sellers? ==

Exactly - 27% of all cigarettes consumed in the UK are non-duty paid. Concealing tobacco in the legitimate chain blurs the line between products that are sold legally in shops and illegally on the black market. The display of tobacco products is an integral part of the purchasing process as it provides adult smokers with the information to make a genuine selection from the wide range of tobacco products, brands and prices that are available in retail outlets.

Tobacco is not a self service product and is the most stringently regulated FMCG product in retail outlets.

== How much will it cost me to refit my shop if this law is brought in? ==

Imperial Tobacco estimates that it will cost retailers between 2,000 - 2,500 each to comply if these laws are brought in. The ACS believes that the total cost to the independent retail trade will be around 252m.

== Will these proposals definitely become law? ==

Not necessarily. The principle of a consultation is to allow the government to seek views from people on their proposals. It is important that your voice is heard and we are encouraging people to do this by contacting their local MP to ask them to make representations on your behalf. Alternatively you can email: tobaccoconsultation@dh.gsi.gov.uk or write to the Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo to voice your concerns.

Scottish retailers can continue to make representations to their local politicians and the Public Health Minister Shona Robinson by email: shona@shonarobinson.com or by writing to: Public Information Service, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.

== I agree with the government's efforts to reduce the rates of under 18s smoking but surely there are other more effective ways to stop young people smoking? ==

While Imperial Tobacco shares the government's objective to reduce the rates of youth smoking, the company is totally opposed to regulation that restricts or prohibits retailers from displaying tobacco products at point of sale. Imperial Tobacco recognises that tobacco products must be appropriately regulated by governments.

But legislation must meet the principles of good regulation, by being proportionate, evidence based and fit for purpose. Imperial Tobacco will be suggesting to the government that it drops proposals to ban displays in shops and instead allocates more resources to enforce the current laws on the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco and tackle the serious problem of illegal selling.

== The government has also suggested the idea of plain packaging. Won't this undermine work being done to tackle illegal selling? ==

Absolutely. Not only does plain packaging play into the hands of the counterfeiters but it could cause problems for retailers in the form of stock control and inventory if all packaging looks the same. Imperial Tobacco asserts its right to differentiate its brands from those of its competitors and we are opposed to plain packaging proposals.

Stricter enforcement of the current age laws coupled with more resources for Trading Standards to tackle illegal selling is the answer.