A TOBACCO giant’s bid to overthrow Scottish Government legislation banning cigarette vending machines north of the Border was yesterday rejected by appeal court judges.
Sinclair Collis Ltd, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco, had challenged plans to outlaw the machines. Bannijng them is a major plank of the Scottish Government’s attempt to reduce smoking.
Politicians across all parties welcomed the decision, hailing it a major step forward in improving the nation’s health.
The Scottish Government said it was looking to finally implement the ban, which has been held up by legal action. MSPs passed legislation outlawing vending machines in 2010, as part of the drive to cut smoking.
The ban was due to start in October 2011, but Sinclair Collis, the UK’s largest cigarette vending operator, challenged it in the Court of Session last May, arguing it was against the European Convention on Human Rights.
The firm lost the challenge but launched an appeal.
However, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lords Bonomy and Osborne, yesterday agreed with Lord Doherty’s earlier decision.
The court heard that a policy memorandum, issued by the Scottish Government when the proposed new laws were first put before MSPs in 2009, stated that one of the aims was to stop young people smoking.
It referred to an estimate of more than 36 million cigarettes being sold every year from about 6,500 vending machines in Scotland.
The Scottish Government said vending machines did not involve routine age-checks – unlike buying alcohol or fireworks – and argued that a ban was the “only way to be absolutely certain” that under-age people did not access cigarettes from machines.
Sinclair Hollis said it owned and operated machines throughout Scotland, and they were imported from Spain, with spare parts coming from Spain and Germany. It argued that the ban would have the effect of restricting their importation and would interfere with trade between the UK and other European Union countries in breach of the “internal market” treaty.
It also said that a “less restrictive alternative” was available in the form of remote radio-controlled machines in highly regulated premises.
However, Lord Carloway said the appeal judges agreed with Lord Doherty’s approach last year in rejecting the argument.
He added: “The court understands that the specific objective of [the ban] is to reduce the availability of cigarettes to under-
18s. It is part of a strategy designed to reduce smoking and, thereby, improve public health.
“It is not disputed that the objective is legitimate. The question is whether a prohibition on vending machines is a proportionate method of attaining the objective.”
The government had to show evidence which justified the ban in terms of the protection of health. The judges said: “The government and parliament had a substantial quantity of material to demonstrate the dangers of smoking by young persons,
especially to their health in later life.
“The material demonstrated that many young persons obtained cigarettes from vending machines. It was an appropriate or suitable step, as part of a wider effort to reduce smoking.”