Regulations scheduled to go into effect next October would ensure that British shoppers do not see cigarettes behind store counters, but tobacco companies and corner store owners are lobbying newly-elected British government ministers to roll back the regulations, the Observer reported Nov. 7.
In recent years, the British Labour government banned advertising, smoking in public, and required stiffer health warnings on cigarette packs.
The latest regulations are set to ban behind-the-counter displays of cigarettes in supermarkets as of October 2011, and smaller stores would have to follow suit in 2013.
“There is no credible evidence to support the stated public health objective that restricting tobacco displays will reduce youth smoking levels,” said the chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Christopher Ogden.
Tobacco representatives argue that the limitations will result in more cigarettes on the black market and the shuttering of small businesses. “Ultimately, people don’t even know where to buy tobacco any more,” said Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco. “The Irish have this problem. That’s the best evidence.”
Ireland imposed similar rules in 2009 and a number of small shops have closed since then, which pro-tobacco groups said is related.
Anne Milton, the new minister of public health, said the Conservative government may reconsider the display ban “to ensure an appropriate balance between public health priorities and burdens on business.”
Opponents of the regulations include the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, and four tobacco companies — Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris – that are planning to ask for help from the courts if the lobbying effort does not succeed.