Curb on tobacco sales 'will hit small shops'

THE days of the corner shop may be numbered, small business representatives warned after the Scottish Government announced a crackdown on cigarette sales.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said plans to tackle underage smoking announced by Shona Robison, the Scottish health minister, yesterday risked driving many small shops out of business.

Under the proposals, shops will have to put cigarettes under the counter or in a back room and customers will be forced to ask for them.

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Ms Robison also said packets of ten cigarettes would be banned and legal controls of tobacco sales would be updated.

She also intends to introduce a tobacco licensing scheme, similar to the one for alcohol.

The moves form part of a drive costing 9 million over three years to discourage young people from smoking.

The minister told MSPs that although tobacco advertising was banned in 2002, there were "growing concerns" that public displays of cigarettes in shops hindered efforts to "denormalise" smoking.

"Giving cigarettes pride of place in shops sits uncomfortably with our ambition to create a climate in which everything possible is done to dissuade people, particularly children and young people, from smoking," she said.

Andy Wilcox, FSB Scotland policy convener, said: "Many shops are designed around a secure cigarette counter to ensure cigarettes cannot get into the hands of those under the age of 18. Forcing these businesses to spend thousands of pounds redesigning their shops could well be the end of the corner shop that often plays such a vital role in our communities."

He added: "The burden of any sort of positive licensing scheme is likely to fall on the shoulders of Scotland's small businesses."

Many of the measures have already been proposed in a private member's bill by Nationalist MSP Christine Graham. She also wants to ban cigarette vending machines.