The colorful packs of cigarettes displayed prominently near the store counters and checkouts in supermarkets across England can’t be unnoticed. Tobacco companies spend millions on product placement in stores and cigarettes occupy primary positions, attracting non-smokers and quitters and keeping smokers addicted.
But not anymore, as the government decided to ban cigarette displays last Wednesday, adopting a measure that would hide cigarettes away from the public and make it much more difficult for current smokers to reach their fix.
“We just can not turn the blind eye to the issue of attracting adolescents by means of the displays,” Sally Davies, one of the U.K. Chief Medical Officers, declared in a statement and noted that cigarette displays in the points of sale encourages adolescents to take up smoking at an age when they are not able make an unbiased and objective decision.
England is not the first nation to ban cigarette, as it followed the steps of Iceland, Canada and Ireland, which required cigarettes to be placed under the counter. Finland, Australia and several other countries are considering approving similar measure starting from 2012. Norway also implemented a ban on displays of tobacco products that even includes imitation tobacco, such as licorice pipes and candy cigarettes.
Cigarette packs selling in the United Kingdom have been carrying scary images of deceased lungs, rotten teeth and cancer tumors. In addition, lawmakers are still considering proposals to require tobacco companies to pack their tobacco products in plain black-and-white packages, with no logos or imagery, apart from health warning images and statements. Australia is mulling that measure as well, and if English authorities decide in favor of the plain packages, the country will be the first European nation implementing that measure.
In the meantime, the ban on tobacco displays already drew expected feedback from both parts of the tobacco was, with tobacco industry and retailers fuming and anti-tobacco campaigners cheering.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents named the measure a “betrayal of all shop owners”, and the Convenience Stores Association stated the new restrictions would get the retailers pay 40 million for adjusting to the new rules.
Both organizations claimed there has been no reliable evidence to prove that such measure would help reduce smoking rates.
However, public health groups disagreed, admitting they have been delighted with the ban, stating many researches demonstrated that ban on tobacco displays would be essential for helping smokers to stop and prevent adolescents from starting smoking.
The retailers said they considered they new measure to be excessive, unreasonable and counterproductive.
Adnan Al Mahmoud, Pakistan-born owner of a convenience store in north London said that by prohibiting tobacco displays the government has opened an easy way for the criminals to sell their products.
“The black market of cigarettes has been a concerning issue tilll today, and will grow to be a major problem for the economy with such measures as forcing legal products from being sold from under the counter,” he added.
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