Tobacco display changes welcomed

A CAMPAIGN group has welcomed moves to stop retailers selling tobacco from eye-catching displays.

New laws on point of sale legislation come into force on Friday that will require all large shops to cover tobacco displays and hide from view the wide selection of colourful tobacco brands currently on the market.

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Ailsa Rutter, director of North East campaign group FRESH, said: “If you walk into any shop across the country currently, you can’t help but notice the highly colourful tobacco displays designed to catch the eye and attract customers. These are often directly behind sweet counters, catching the eye of children.

“In the North-East the average age that people start smoking is just 15, but some start as young as nine years old. Smoking is a childhood addiction and that is why making cigarettes less visible to young people is a positive move forward in reducing tobacco promotion.”

But she added: “This is a welcome step, but it will not stop the tobacco companies from using the pack itself to lure new customers – who are usually young people – with pastel colours, holograms and fancy designs.

“This is why Australia is introducing plain, standardised packaging on tobacco products later this year with more noticeable health warnings to make smoking history for more children. I’d urge as many people to support this when our Government launches a consultation in the spring.”

The new point of sale regulations will mean that all large shops with a relevant floor space of more than 280 square metres will be required to cover their open tobacco displays – while other smaller shops will have to comply with the legislation from April 2015.

The new displays must not exceed 1.5 square metres and will only be seen when staff are serving customers or carrying out other day-to-day tasks such as stocktaking.

Richard Ferry, of the North East Trading Standards Association, said: “We support these efforts to make cigarettes seem less glamorous to children and young people, to reduce the likelihood of under-age purchase attempts.”

Tobacco displays were covered in shops in Ireland in 2009 and a study funded by Cancer Research UK found that it changed young people’s attitude to smoking without resulting in retailers losing money.

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