It cannot have escaped your notice that there is a government-sponsored consultation underway about the future of tobacco products, including bans on gantry displays, packs smaller than 20s and cigarette vending machines. While the deadline for submitting information to that consultation has now passed, in many ways the battle has only just begun. There is a very well organised and highly motivated health lobby that is out to eliminate tobacco from the UK. Their latest target is the in-store tobacco gantry, claiming that it is a major factor in encouraging new smokers to start and making it more difficult for current smokers to quit. But in fact there is no evidence to support these claims. Removing tobacco gantries will cost the small store industry a minimum of £250m in capital costs alone (source: ACS study) and about £100m a year in increased running costs (C-Store study). The government has, of course, not offered to pay for these measures. In fact, if it were to undertake a project that cost £250m to set up and £100m a year to run, without any evidence that it would make a difference, they would be held up to ridicule by backbenchers, the National Audit Office and the media. We have already launched the Keep Tobacco Over the Counter campaign. The consultation team will announce its conclusions soon, and MPs will be called upon to vote for new laws. We need to make sure they are properly aware of the facts.
What we call for
● More resources for Trading Standards and other enforcement agencies to implement a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the illicit sales of tobacco ● A more collaborative approach between retailers and enforcement agencies to tackle the problem of illicit tobacco and reduce sales to the underaged ● A consumer advertising campaign to warn the public about the danger and consequences of purchasing tobacco from illicit sources ● A balanced approach to regulation that views retailers as partners
What you can do
● Tell your customers that the government is considering banning tobacco displays and the sale of 10 packs ● Tell them that if the proposals are accepted, there will be potentially serious consequences to prices and customer service standards, and in some cases the viability of local shops ● Contact your MP and ask him or her to keep an open mind about the proposals, and when they come to vote, to look at all the evidence and the costs objectively, rather than being swayed by purely emotional arguments ● Let the authorities know that much more can be done to reduce youth smoking by education programmes, introducing a proxy purchasing law and targeting the sellers of black market cigarettes