October 17, 2009 - Members of Parliament (MPs, House of Commons) voted on Monday (12 October) in favor of a ban on tobacco displays in shops and cigarette vending machines in a move that the government believes will help stop young people taking up smoking. (United Kingdom - House of Commons - ban cigarette displays a step closer/vending machine ban even closer..)
Now that the bill has passed its third reading it will now go before the House of Lords. On May 6, 2009 the House of Lords voted to ban shop tobacco displays and restrict vending machine use.. Monday's vote in parliament will affect Northern Ireland, England and Wales. The Scottish parliament is also considering a ban, while Ireland introduced a similar ban in July this year.
Small retailers will have until 2013 to remove their cigarette displays, while larger retailers will be expected to make the changes by 2011. Vending machines will also be banned.
Counterfeit cigarettes could thrive under a new law forcing retailers to hide tobacco products under the counter, packaging and tobacco experts have warned.
While public health lobbyists have welcomed the ban, retailers have warned that it will increase costs and threaten smaller shops while the tobacco industry and some in the packaging sector have argued that it will offer an opportunity for counterfeiters to have a greater hold on the market.
Chesapeake marketing manager Bob Houghton said: "Our concern would be the reduction in required print quality which is likely to lead to higher rates of counterfeiting.
"There would also be significant costs associated with the move both for the print industry and the tobacco sector."
Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA), said: "We believe that organized crime will exploit the ban. The regulations will make it easier for rogue traders to hide and sell illicit, unregulated tobacco products."
However, others have argued that the ban could increase the importance of packaging as the key messenger of a brand's identity. Nick Verebelyi, head of 3D at design agency Design Bridge, said: "Packaging, regardless of whether the product ends up being restricted to under the counter sales is the only remaining way these brands can convey their differences."
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "This will hit small stores, which lack the space and resources, particularly hard. The government is right to try to stop children smoking but banning displays in shops is just not the way."
The ban comes amid an ongoing debate on the merits or otherwise of plain cigarette packaging. Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said in September that plain packaging would "take the glitz and glamour out of tobacco".
The TMA's Ogden responded, however, that plain packaging would "prevent tobacco manufacturers from providing consumers with information about products that are legally available in retail outlets".
Reference: Counterfeit pack warning over MPs' ban on cigarette displays, Josh Brooks (packagingnews.co.uk) PackagingNews.co.uk, 10/15.2009.
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