United Kingdom - 3rd reading of Public Health Bill including ban on tobacco displays..

October 11, 2009 - Monday morning, October 12th Department of Health poised to convince MPs (members of parliament) that a cigarette display ban will effectively reduce levels of underage smoking. National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) is urging all Labour MPs to be fully aware of the facts surrounding underage smoking, tobacco displays and international case studies in advance of the Report and Third reading of the Public Health Bill (specifically clause 21) on Monday afternoon (October 12). (Parliament of United Kingdom - Legislative functions..)

Public Health Bill - Clause 21 - Prohibition of tobacco displays etc
The display of tobacco products at the point-of-sale - including behind the counter and on vending machines - functions as a form of tobacco advertising that reinforces deceptive notions about the glamour and normalcy of smoking to young people, as demonstrated by research from North America and Australia. It is essential that this is prohibited. Such legislation has already been successfully introduced in Iceland, Thailand and 12 (out of 13) Canadian provinces and territories. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in 2010, and the Australian States of Tasmania and Victoria in 2011, are also to implement display bans.

Point-of-sale display restrictions have now been agreed in the Republic of Ireland (legislation has been passed and implementation is set for July 2009) and in Scotland. The rest of the UK should follow suit and legislate to ensure that all tobacco products are completely out of sight at point-of-sale. Making tobacco an ’out of sight’ product will protect children from tobacco promotion and reinforce the increasing unacceptability of smoking. The Lords voted in favour of preserving the prohibition of point-of-sale displays by 204 votes to 110. The British Medical Association (BMA) strongly urges MPs to be supportive of prohibition of point-of-sale displays.

Labour MPs will tomorrow rebel against a government anti-smoking initiative that they fear will drive many small shops out of business. They will defy Labour whips by voting against a plan to outlaw the display in all stores of cigarettes, which would have to be kept out of customers' sight.

Westminster (Houses of Parliament) sources say that about one in 10 government backbenchers (the rear benches in the House of Commons where junior members of Parliament sit behind government officeholders and their counterparts in the opposition party) are preparing to vote against the relevant clause in the health bill when it comes before the House of Commons for its third and final reading.

They have been swayed by representatives of small retailers arguing that the ban will threaten the future of convenience stores and newsagents by boosting sales of illicit tobacco and increasing supermarkets' commercial dominance.

Some ministers are known to sympathise with the concerns being raised about the point-of-sale ban and fear that such a move, especially in a recession, could be unwise and unpopular. However, health ministers say it will prove a key weapon in their efforts to "de-normalise" tobacco, reduce the number of smokers and build on the success of the 2007 ban on smoking in public places.

Phil Woolas, the borders and immigration minister, recently indicated his concern about the ban at a fringe meeting of Labour's annual party conference. He told a gathering staged by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, which is funded by the cigarette makers' trade body, the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association: "Although it might get me sacked, I don't agree with the point-of-sale elements on the health bill. I think they won't do what they are meant to do and will just damage small retailers and lead to more smuggling."

The Tyne Bridge Labour MP, David Clelland, a key figure in the rebellion, believes that if the ban becomes law "what will happen is that many small corner shops will suffer by the cost of renovating their premises and the loss of trade for a legal product, just as many pubs and clubs have closed up and down the country as a result of the total ban on smoking inside their premises".

But the Department of Health insists that the evidence from Iceland and most provinces of Canada, who already have such a ban, shows that a ban on displaying cigarettes in shops helps cut the number of people who smoke and makes it easier for smokers to quit. Ireland took the same action in July. BMA Scotland Briefing Paper: Evidence in support of a ban on point of sale on the display of tobacco products, May 2009.

A health department spokeswoman said the move would protect children, and added: "Convenience stores are at the heart of our communities. We would not want to impose impractical or expensive regulations on them. Any regulations to keep tobacco out of sight in stores would not be imposed on small shopkeepers until 2013 to give them time to get ready."

There is another flashpoint around the bill's plan to curb youth smoking by restricting access to tobacco vending machines in pubs. It would compel bar staff to check the age of someone wanting to buy cigarettes before operating the machine with a remote control. But many landlords think the plan is unworkable, especially when staff are busy, and some MPs and health organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK are pressing for a ban. The Holyrood government (Scottish parliament) has announced plans to do so in Scotland.

Ian McCartney, a former cabinet minister, has given his former colleagues a headache by tabling an amendment calling for total withdrawal, and many MPs — including Conservatives such as shadow health minister Mike Penning — are behind it. Sources at Westminster argue that that clause of the bill, and McCartney's amendment, may be taken as a free vote in order to prevent the government suffering a defeat on one of its own major bills.

McCartney said that cumbersome, partial controls on vending machines would still allow under-18s to obtain cigarettes. "We don't allow children to buy alcohol, fireworks or solvents in vending machines, so why should they be able to get cigarettes from them? It's a loophole in efforts to ensure that the law which says that only those over 18 can buy cigarettes is upheld.

Reference: Government faces backbench rebellion over cigarette display ban in shops Bill would make retailers keep tobacco products out of sight, which critics say could threaten future of small stores, Denis Campbell, health correspondent,
guardian.co.uk, 10/11/2009.

Some related news briefs:
United Kingdom - limiting access to cigarette vending machines not possible..;
Updated - England - tabacco display ban - the Lords got it right..;
Fewer Britons support the ban on smoking in pubs than in other public places..
"Glasgow effect" - prevalence of cigarette smoking impact on poor health..;
Scotland - tobacco industry will try to stop attempts to curb sales to young people..;
Scotland - cigarette vending machines removal..;
Scottish politicians most have the courage to protect the health of their constituents..;
England, House of Lords votes to ban shop tobacco dislays and restrict vending machine use..;
Northern Ireland - assembly approves ban on display of tobacco items..;
Scotland to ban cigarette displays and outlaw cigarette vending machines..;
England, Wales to ban tobacco displays in shops..;
UK - Strategies to be implemented to prevent underage tobacco use...