Tobacco displays to be banned
ITN via Yahoo! UK & Ireland News- Dec 08 9:08 PM
Shopkeepers look set to be banned from displaying cigarettes and tobacco under new laws.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson will signal that ministers are to press ahead with moves to force cigarette sales "under the counter" despite fears of the impact on small businesses.
A ban on prominent displays of tobacco products was reported to have caused a row within the Cabinet, with Business Secretary Peter Mandelson arguing it would further affect recession-hit shops.
But Mr Johnson will give the proposals the green light and insist no retailers have been forced to close by similar policies abroad - where underage smoking rates have been cut by as much as 10 per cent.
Official statistics show that almost 200,000 children aged between 11-15 were regular smokers in 2007.
The "overwhelming majority" of the record number of responses to a consultation on how to protect such young people from smoking backed the ban, officials pointed out.
And the Health Secretary will promise a "fully inclusive" implementation across England with all possible help given to businesses to deal with any impact.
Vending machines, believed to be the source of cigarettes for up to a fifth of young smokers, will also face a ban or age-proofing measures.
And there will be a promise of more research on whether forcing cigarette firms to sell their products in plain packaging could further reduce the appeal to under 18s.
The Tories have complained that there is no evidence a ban would cut smoking rates and could "destroy local corner shops and newsagents that are already suffering now".
And the Liberal Democrats have warned of a potential increase in the buying of illegal foreign cigarettes.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown told MPs last month that it was "not good enough" that smoking rates among children had only been cut from 13 per cent to 6 per cent.
The Government has already raised the age limit for buying tobacco from 16 to 18.