Forget EastEnders, it’s tobacco that everyone is talking about. Given that some of the most draconian legislation seen in the UK is threatening to plunge the category and independent retailers into darkness, it’s easy to see why.

Since April 1, 2009 retailers responsible for three underage sales in a two-year period can be issued with a Tobacco Banning Order for up to a year. Trading Standards are able to apply to the magistrates courts for two types of order:

Restricted Premises Order (RPOs) served on premises where three underage sales of tobacco products have taken place in a two-year period. It bans the sale of tobacco products from those premises for up to one year

Restricted Sales Order (RSOs) served on individuals and preventing them from supervising the sale of tobacco products or selling such products to themselves.

Plans for a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers have now been scrapped in England.


The new government is under growing pressure to review legislation introduced by the previous Labour administration to ban the display of tobacco products in stores.

The ban is due to be implemented in large stores (3,000sq ft and above) from October 1, 2011 and small stores from October 1, 2013.

Under the legislation, stores would be permitted to make the display visible to customers only if they requested to see a tobacco product, and the maximum space that could be exposed is 0.75sq m (about a quarter of a small gantry).

Stores would be allowed to display one A3-sized price list with characters no higher than 7mm at each till point.

One price list with pictures would also be permitted, but it would have to be stored out of sight and shown to customers only on request.

A decision on whether the ban will go ahead in its current form and the proposed timescale is expected this month.

SCOTLAND, Wales and Northern Ireland

Tobacco is a devolved issue in Scotland, and its government has also passed the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Act which also aims to ban the display of tobacco and tobacco-related products. This Bill also contains provisions to ban proxy purchasing, introduce a register for tobacco retailers, and make it an offence to sell tobacco papers to under-18s. The Scottish government plans to implement a display ban on the same timescale as in England, but is still debating the guidelines. It has also suggested that the maximum area that can be exposed during a sale is 120sq cm, or roughly the size of a cigarette packet.

The assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland are also considering their own regulations.

From October 1, 2010 it is no longer permissible for retailers to sell cigarettes, rolling tobacco or cigars that do not carry picture warnings. 

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