It could make it illegal for adults to buy cigarettes on behalf of children. It could fight the growing black market which indiscriminately supplies young people and deprives the government of billions of pounds in duty. And, with targeted education and investment, it could address the social, cultural and economic issues which lead to early adoption of smoking in some geographic regions.
Unfortunately our current leaders prefer to look good than to do good. So they are proposing a gimmicky response, the removal of tobacco products from display in shops, which will cost them nothing, but cost you, the responsible retailer of a legitimate product, as much as £2000.
Worst still, it’s an entirely unproven solution, with absolutely no international evidence to suggest it will work.
An effort to remove the display ban from the forthcoming Health Bill failed in the House of Lords earlier this month, after government whips instructed Labour peers to ignore the pleas for common sense put forward by the Conservative Earl Howe and others.
Howe said the research used to back the ban was “shot through with weakness and leaps of logic.”
“You cannot associate smoking with one particular causal factor, like tobacco displays, unless you have established that other factors, which may be more relevant, can be ruled out,” he added. “A government can only justify imposing costs and burdens on business if the evidence is unarguably there to do so. I believe that in this case the evidence is very weak.”
Lord Palmer also addressed the government’s muddled thinking. “27% of all cigarettes smoked in the UK are illegally purchased, doing the Treasury out of more than £3 billion annually,” he said.
“This is where many young people buy their tobacco, and this is where government should be legislating, rather than depriving legitimate retailers of their livelihoods, earned by selling what is, after all, a legal product.”
The debate now moves to the House of Commons for its second reading and a final chance tell your MP why they should oppose a ban which will punish small stores, to the point of forcing some to close; which will deprive communities of a vital local resource; and which will do nothing to prevent youth smoking.
If you believe, as we do, that the ban will harm your business but fail to achieve its aims, it’s time to make your opinion heard.
Why fight the ban?
It will impose costs of £1,500-2,000 on your business;
It will damage stores, deprive communities and fuel the illicit trade
What you can do
Copy our sample letter below
Personalise the letter with your own words and experiences and email it to your MP
Let us know when you get a response. David.firstname.lastname@example.org
Email your MP
Below is a sample letter to send to your MP. Your message will be much more effective if you adapt this with your own experiences and knowledge of your local community.
I own a small neighbourhood store in your constituency and sell tobacco products as part of a my business.
An amendment to the Health Bill, which is to be debated in the Commons this month, calls for the removal of tobacco display gantries from shops like mine. While I fully support the Government's aims to reduce youth smoking, I believe that the display ban would impose punishing costs on my business, while failing to achieve its intended purpose.
The international evidence to suggest that a display ban is effective is poor. In fact, only recently the New Zealand Prime Minister rejected a similar ban due to the lack of evidence of its effectiveness.
What is clear, however, is that it will cost me in the region of £1000 to re-organise my store – a sum which I will find it difficult to pay in the current trading conditions. This is not the time to introduce a gimmicky policy that will increase the burden on struggling local businesses.
If traders like me have to put prices up or go out of business to accommodate a totally unproven experiment such as this, then all shoppers, not just smokers, will be worse off.
Like most stores, I operate a No ID No Sale scheme and my staff are rigorously trained in refusing sales to those who cannot prove their age. Responsible retailers are the Government's best friend in the battle against youth smoking.
My fear is that, should stores like mine go out of business or choose to stop selling cigarettes as a result of the ban, the UK's 13 million smokers will not give up their habit. They will source their cigarettes from the black market, which currently accounts for some 27% of all the cigarettes sold in this country and deprives the Treasury of around £3 billion in duty every year.
I am sure the residents of our neighbourhood would confirm that it is these unprincipled street-corner traders, along with family members and older friends, who are the main suppliers of tobacco products to children.
I therefore ask you to act on my behalf and intervene in the Second Reading of the Health Bill and express my concern about this ban. I hope you will also consider signing EDM 885 to show your concern at how the ban will affect small shops.