Fears over ban on tobacco displays
A BAN on displays of cigarettes will seriously damage business and boost the black market, shopkeepers warned yesterday.
A poll conducted by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance revealed that four out of five corner shop owners said they believed the Scottish Government's plans would hit their business by encouraging illegal purchasing.
In addition, almost 70 per cent think that cross-Border shopping and tobacco smuggling will increase over the next 12 months.
The poll was conducted across the UK, but the impact of a display ban is due to be felt first in Scotland where the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill is due to be passed by MSPs by the end of the year.
The ban would affect large retailers from 2011 and small shops from 2013 but exclude specialist tobacconists.
Ministers and health professionals believe that a display ban will help prevent young people from taking up smoking.
They have argued that displays have become highly sophisticated forms of advertising. They want shops to hide their cigarettes and keep a list of available products behind the counter.
But Scottish Tobacco Retail Alliance spokeswoman Fiona Barrett, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, warned: "If smokers aren't aware a shop such as mine sells tobacco, they are going to be all the more tempted to get it from car boot sales or sellers on street corners."
Edinburgh shopkeeper Abdul Qadar added: "Retailers like me are a vital part of our local communities. We need the government to work with us rather than against us and tackle the issue of tobacco smuggling head-on.
"That way, we can continue to provide the valuable service that we do for our customers."
The bill also includes plans for a national tobacco sales register and will create a new offence – punishable by a maximum fine of 20,000 or six months in prison – for people selling tobacco illegally.
The new tobacco law could also be extended to stop adults buying cigarettes for under-age smokers.
The survey of shopkeepers found 55 per cent were aware of smuggled tobacco being sold in their area, often to under-18s.
But Scottish public health minister Shona Robison defended the proposals and dismissed the retailers' concerns.
She said: "The bill is unashamedly about restricting young people's access to cigarettes, because we know that more than 80 per cent of smokers get hooked in their teens. Furthermore, someone who starts smoking at 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer than someone who starts in their mid-twenties.
"This is not an either/or situation. With smoking killing more than 10,000 Scots a year, we have a duty to protect our children by stopping them from starting in the first place and the evidence tells us that restricting displays of cigarettes is an important way of doing that."
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