Scotland - tobacco firms claim proposed display ban is unnecessary.

September 17, 2009 - Cigarette firms today insisted a ban on tobacco displays proposed by the Scottish Government was "unnecessary, unjustified and unwanted". Christopher Ogden, the chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, also claimed the display ban – put forward by the Scottish Government – could be exploited by organised crime.

The tobacco boss hit (spoke) out after the majority of Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) on Holyrood's (the Parliament) Health and Sport Committee gave their backing to the move.

But Mr Ogden said: "The last thing we need in the midst of recession is further regulation that will facilitate illicit trade in tobacco products and impact adversely on thousands of small retailers and the communities they serve."

The Government's Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill aims to curb the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to youngsters.

If passed, the legislation would ban stores from displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products, outlaw cigarette vending machines and introduce a registration system for tobacco retailers.

MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee have also urged the Scottish Government to expand the proposals to make it a criminal act for adults to buy tobacco for under-age youngsters.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said: "The majority of our committee believes that cigarettes at the point of sale represent an advertisement and a ban on these displays would have a particularly positive effect in deterring teenagers.

"Most members also believe that cigarette vending machines should be banned."

However Mr Ogden claimed MSPs had failed to consider "compelling evidence" provided by manufacturers retailers and others that the "ban will not have its intended effect". He added: "The proposed ban is unnecessary, unjustified and unwanted by many stakeholders, especially the retailers whose businesses will be adversely affected to no purpose." Mr Ogden continued: "The serious unintended consequences of this proposal have also been ignored by the Scottish Health and Sport Committee.

Ogden: "We believe, as evidence in Ireland proves, with the seizure of significant quantities of counterfeit cigarettes of the top two brands in Ireland, that organised crime will exploit the display ban. The proposed legislation will make illicit, unregulated tobacco products easier to sell. "We hope that common sense will prevail and the Bill will be amended when it is debated in the Scottish Parliament."

However Public Health Minister Shona Robison said: "Across Scotland, too many families have watched loved ones suffer and die prematurely as a result of smoking-related illnesses. "The cost of smoking is high – both in terms of premature deaths and the £400 million cost to the NHS annually. "That's why we are taking radical steps to ban both tobacco displays in shops and cigarette vending machines. These measures, and others included in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill, will help to reduce the attractiveness and availability of cigarettes of children, stopping them becoming the smokers of tomorrow."

She added: "We're committed to cutting the number of smokers in Scotland. Stopping people from starting to smoke in the first place is a priority for us and this legislation will help to do just that."

John Drummond, the chief executive of the Scottish Grocers' Federation, said: "We are extremely disappointed the committee has recommended a ban on the display of tobacco despite their own admission that the international evidence to support this measure is inconclusive." He added that the Federation had "repeatedly made the argument that regulations should only be made when they are supported by compelling evidence". And he said: "A display ban will impose a significant burden on retailers at a time when they can least afford it."

However Mr Drummond gave his backing to the committee's call for the Government to make it an offence to adults to buy cigarettes for under 18s. Drummond: "The single most likely way for a young person to get hold of cigarettes is through an adult. Currently there is no legal deterrent to adults who supply tobacco for young people."
He added that moves to criminalise this proxy purchasing would be welcome and said: "Proxy purchasing tobacco for young people is immoral and should be illegal."

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