CIGARETTE displays will be banned in large retailers from April, after the Scottish Government won a landmark ruling against Imperial Tobacco in the Supreme Court.
• Ban comes into force in larger shops from April
• Imperial Tobacco admits defeat in appeal process
• Vending machine ban will also come into force
Judges unanimously rejected the company’s appeal, which had previously failed twice at the Court of Session, saying it was a health, rather than a consumer, issue.
The display ban will come into force in large shops from April, although smaller ones will have until 2015 to make the necessary changes.
Imperial Tobacco also lost its appeal against a vending machine ban, which will come into effect in spring, with a four-month implementation period starting in the new year.
The world’s fourth-largest cigarette group admitted it had exhausted all possible routes of appeal, which means there is nothing now standing in the way of the ban.
Scottish ministers plan to try to recoup their legal costs from Imperial Tobacco, and the UK’s largest vending machine operator Sinclair Collis, which also launched unsuccessful legal action previously. However, it refused to say how much taxpayers’ money had been spent.
An estimated 13,000 deaths a year in Scotland are attributed to smoking, along with 56,000 hospital admissions, latest figures show.
Just under a quarter of Scots smoke, and it is estimated to cost the NHS £323 million a year, although the pro-tobacco lobby points to the amount of tax smokers pay.
Michael Matheson, public health minister, said: “We know that reducing the number of people that smoke will have wide benefits for Scotland’s health, and these bans will play a crucial role in preventing young people from taking up smoking.”
The new laws were included in the Primary Medical Services Act, with section one prohibiting the display of tobacco products and section nine outlawing cigarette vending machines.
Imperial Tobacco argued that they were both were outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament, as they dealt with consumer matters reserved to Westminster.
However, Lord Hope, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “The purpose of section one is to enable the Scottish ministers to take steps which might render tobacco products less visible to potential consumers and thereby achieve a reduction in sales and thus in smoking.
“The purpose of section nine is to make cigarettes less readily available, particularly (but not only) to children and young people, with a view to reducing smoking.
“The court does not see how it can be said that the purpose of these sections has anything to do with consumer protection. ”
The Supreme Court verdicts have been broadly welcomed.
Dr Richard Simpson, of Scottish Labour, said: “I’m delighted that this last-ditch and desperate appeal by Imperial Tobacco has been thrown out.”
A spokesman for the office of the Advocate General added: “The outcome is a good result for Scotland and the UK government welcomes the unanimous judgment of the court.”