Display Ban

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An Important Tobacco Control Measure

In 2006, an article in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control noted that “Banning the display of tobacco products at point of sale is an important international tobacco control policy frontier.”1
In December 2008, the then Health Secretary for England Alan Johnson said he would be introducing a Point of Sale Display Ban (POSD) on cigarettes, having been impressed with evidence from other countries such as Iceland and Canada where smoking prevalence among young people has fallen by up to 10% since display bans were introduced. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, called the move “another step on the road to victory on tobacco-related illness”.
Johnson said the supermarkets would be asked first to remove their displays by October 2011, followed by corner shops and smaller retailers in 2013.2

Deadline Put Back

In March 2011, the Coalition Government announced that the deadlines would be pushed back to April 2012 and April 2015 respectively, in part due to industry lobbying and a legal challenge by British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris International (PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI).3 4
In December 2011, the four aforementioned tobacco companies dropped their legal challenge. The Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: “Removing tobacco displays from shops will help to stop young people from starting smoking and help smokers that want to quit. Withdrawing this legal challenge is a victory for public health.”5
The Press Association also quoted Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy:

We were always confident that the tobacco industry would lose their case because the evidence shows that selling cigarettes alongside sweets and crisps makes them seem like a normal, everyday product rather than a deadly and addictive drug. Pursuing legal action to try to stop policies to reduce smoking backed by public health experts is a standard tobacco industry tactic. The threat of this legal action has put back action to remove tobacco displays in other parts of the UK.

Scottish Display Ban Delayed Indefinitely

In March 2012, it was revealed that the introduction of a tobacco display ban in Scotland had been delayed indefinitely due to a last-minute decision by Imperial Tobacco to challenge the proposed measures in the Supreme Court. Imperial claims the measures in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 were outside the scope of the Scottish parliament’s legislative powers because of sales of goods are the responsibility of the Westminster parliament. Scotland’s Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said he was “disappointed” and that the government would “continue to defend legislation”. 6

Cigarette Sales Down Ahead of the Display Ban

At the end of March 2012, the Grocer magazine reported that Imperial Tobacco had “revealed tobacco sales have taken a hit in stores that have already covered up their cigarette kiosks”. Imperial’s UK General Sales Manager, Amal Pramanik said sales in stores that were already complying with the ban were down by 3 per cent. 7

“No Point in Stocking New Brands Now”

In early April 2012, Retail Newsagent magazine reported early responses to the Display Ban. The assistant manager at one independent store, Fisher’s in Gerrards Cross, said: ” There’s no point stocking new brands now as nobody can see them”. 8

Relevant TobaccoTactic Resources

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  1. Todd Harper, “Why the tobacco industry fears point of sale display bans”, Tobacco Control, 2006 June; 15(3): 270–271
  2. BBC News, “Ban on tobacco displays announced”, 8 December 2008
  3. Alex Stevenson, Govt delays cigarette display ban on No Smoking Day, Politics.co.uk, 9 March 2011
  4. BAT, Judicial review sought on tobacco display ban, 26 April 2010
  5. Jane Kirby, “Tobacco Firms Drop Law Challenge”, Press Association, 22 December 2011
  6. Tom Ferguson, “Imperial Appeal Holds Up Scottish Display Ban”, Retail Newsagent, 23 March 2012, p15
  7. The Grocer, “Ciggie Sales Already Down Ahead of Display Ban”, 31 March 2012, p5
  8. Tom Gockelen-Kozowski, “Display Ban in Action”, Retail Newsagent, 6 April 2012