Cigarette display ban comes into force
The move will help prevent young people from starting to smoke, according to Public Health Minister Michael Matheson.
The open display ban was set out in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which will also see the sale of cigarettes from vending machines prohibited from today.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland have already brought in similar bans to prevent large stores from displaying cigarettes and tobacco.
Stores that do not comply could be convicted of a criminal offence or receive a fixed penalty fine from trading standards officers.
“These bans are the right step to prevent young people in Scotland from taking up smoking,” Mr Matheson said.
“It is well known that smoking is associated with a range of illnesses and is the primary preventable cause of ill health and premature death. Each year, tobacco use is associated with over 13,000 deaths and 56,000 hospital admissions in Scotland.
“That is why it is so important that this government works to improve health by reducing the number of people who choose to smoke and evidence shows that young people exposed to the promotion of tobacco are more likely to try smoking.”
But the ban has faced opposition from the tobacco industry, with The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) - which represents more than 26,000 shopkeepers across the UK - arguing against the new legislation.
TRA Scotland spokesman Geoff Barrett, who is a retailer in Glasgow, said: “There is still no credible evidence that introducing this ban will stop young people smoking.
“That’s not really surprising because we all know young people smoke because of peer pressure or because friends or families smoke.
“Instead of burdening retailers with yet more regulation and restrictions, the Scottish Government should look at tackling the problem of tobacco smuggling, which is endemic across Scotland and which is a key source of tobacco for Scotland’s underage smokers.
“Tobacco smugglers never ask the age of their customers if they think they are under 18, the way retailers have to.
“It also doesn’t make any sense that the UK Government is still looking at putting tobacco in plain packaging before this latest restriction on display has even been implemented in Scotland, let alone evaluated.”
Last December a legal challenge by one of the world’s biggest tobacco firms was defeated.
The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against any ban by Imperial Tobacco, which argued that the legislative provisions dealing with display bans fell outside the scope of the Scottish Government and were matters reserved for the UK Parliament in London.
The ban affects large shops which are defined as those with a relevant floor area exceeding 280 square metres and will come into force for smaller retailers on April 6, 2015.