The display of tobacco products in shops will end next year under new government regulations announced today that aim to reduce the number of smokers in the UK.
Small retailers across the country are generally against the ban due to the expected extra costs and disruption incurred, but they have four years to prepare before the changes are implemented on April 6th 2015.
Large retailers must ensure they meet the new regulations by April 6th next year.
A statement from the Department of Heath revealed that temporary displays will be permitted in certain limited circumstances, and shopkeepers will be able to undertake stock-taking or maintenance work while there are customers in the shop without breaking the law.
The British Retail Consortium has not welcomed today’s announcement, with Food Director of the group Andrew Opie saying: “Retailers support efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking but there’s no evidence that forcing shops to put cigarettes out of sight will make any difference.
“It puts new costs on retailers who are being forced to refit their stores, and will inconvenience customers who have to wait longer to be served.”
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which represents small and independent retailers across the UK, has also campaigned against the new measures, again citing the lack of evidence to suggest hiding cigarettes in stores reduces smoking levels.
Commenting to Retail Gazette this morning, CEO of the ACS James Lowman said that today’s move will “impose further costs and burdens on retailers” at a time many of them are fighting to survive.
There was speculation that Health Minister Andrew Lansley would announce rules banning branding on cigarette packaging, but there is more work to do before such a policy can be implemented.
Lansley commented: “We want to do everything we can to help people to choose to stop smoking and encourage young people not to start smoking in the first place.
“We will help local communities to take a comprehensive approach to reducing smoking so we can change social attitudes to smoking.”