Ken Patel, spokesman for Responsible Retailing, took issue with a statistic in our last issue. Lacors claimed that sales of cigarettes to underaged youths have soared by 50% over the last year and that illegal sales were made to test purchasers in 15% of c-stores (and 23% in newsagents). But how about a statistic showing how many retailers did not get the government leaflet explaining that the age limit was being raised from 16 to 18, he suggested.
"And the schools were never told," he adds. "The government spent all its money on ads about smoking in public places, so that survey seems a bit false."
Ian McIntyre, a tobacconist from Tarbert in Argyll, favours a sort of David Davis approach. "The proposal to prevent the display of tobacco products represents a serious limitation of our civil liberties."
He has written to a fair number of officials, including Wendy Alexander. In what must have been one of her last acts before standing down as Labour group leader, after the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee ruled she had broken donation guidelines, she replied to Ian in a three-page letter addressing all of the issues raised.
In part she said that she felt a lot could be learned from Iceland (the country, not the store), "where tobacco displays are banned as part of a comprehensive anti-tobacco strategy which has reduced smoking levels from 30.9% to 20.7% in men and similar falls for women".
She also says that no retailer in Canada was forced to close because of display bans and that, in any case, the cost of refitting will be largely borne by the "tobacco wholesalers that supply tobacco products to the retail chains".
So that's all right then.

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