The government's decision to forge ahead with a tobacco display ban was rightly derided throughout our industry.

There was neither convincing evidence that it would have any impact on preventing youth smoking, nor a clear understanding of its cost to tobacco retailers.

The Ministerial announcement in November was a setback for the campaign to prevent a display ban in the UK. It is now likely that the implementation dates of 2011 for large stores and 2013 for smaller retailers will go ahead, but that does not mean that we don't have to fight hard against it.

ACS has been keeping up our fight against the implementation of the ban. As the Health Bill that will bring it in goes through Parliament, we are briefing the Lords and MPs involved, making the case that this ban is a policy gimmick that serves only to distract us from the measures that will really make a difference to smoking among young people.

There is some sanity in the debate, however. In this past week the Conservatives have set out the clear alternative to this flawed policy. They have committed to cracking down on proxy purchasing; to tougher action against the pervasive illegal trade; and to increasing access to smoking replacement therapy. The question they have to answer satisfactorily is will their commitment to opposing this measure last beyond a successful election campaign and into a reversal of the measure in government?

While we are campaigning hard to oppose the ban, we also have a responsibility to understand and influence those plans being developed by government officials if a ban does come into force. If it does go ahead, it is our responsibility to influence the regulations to make them as low cost as possible.

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