It’s almost three years to the day that the then public health minister Dawn Primarolo stunned the retail industry with her plans to hide tobacco products from view. And for three years Convenience Store has been campaigning to keep tobacco over the counter, with a particular focus on averting the display ban.
With the publication of the new government’s position on tobacco control last week, the trade now knows where it stands and stores have either one year or four years (depending on size and location) to comply with a ban on retail display of tobacco.
What we’ve done
Over the past three years we’ve fought tirelessly on your behalf to inform the debate about the tobacco display ban. Letters have been written, experiments conducted, postcards sent and international evidence (or the lack of it) poured over because, like you, we believe that legislation should be based on sound facts, not gimmicks
What we will do
We will continue to monitor and report on the progress of the display ban, and to revisit the issue of plain packaging later this year when the consultation is launched
What you can do
Ensure that you keep up a regular dialogue with your tobacco rep to find out how he plans to help you make the necessary changes
Keep talking to your local MP about how the display ban will affect your business, and ask him for support
If you have strong views on the implications of plain packaging, let us know and we will include your views in our submission to the consultation later in the year. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her on 01293 610426.
But the regulations as they stand now are much less onerous for the trade than those originally proposed, and the only reason for that is the tireless campaigning carried out by trade associations, retail groups and Convenience Store.
And a lot has changed since those early dark days. Three years ago, proposals to stow tobacco in sealed units beneath the counter had retailers fearing for their safety as well as their livelihoods. The strength of opposition to this idea forced the former government back to the drawing board, and a few months later it proposed new plans to cover up gantries with a complicated system of 20 or more flaps. Continuing opposition saw the government announce a number of key concessions, including an extension of the permitted display area to 0.75sq m, meaning that a typical c-store gantry of 2m x 1.5m would only need four doors.
Today, following a change of government and a campaigning crescendo including a postcard campaign organised by ACS and Convenience Store which bombarded the Department of Health (DoH) with more than 6,000 postcards asking it to stop the ban the implementation dates have been pushed back, a more workable interpretation of restocking was included, and the permissible display area increased to 1.5 sq m.
There remains no evidence that hiding cigarettes from view in shops prevents children smoking, and the government has not delivered the hoped-for review of the display ban. However, the cost of compliance to retailers, in terms of capital cost and ongoing efficiency, has been greatly reduced from the original plans, and it is only vocal and committed campaigning that has allowed the retail industry even this concession.
So now is the time to draw the covers over this phase of our campaign, but we will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the ban and watching how the tobacco industry responds to the DoH’s latest consultation with interest. Later in the year we will be making a submission on behalf of retailers to the consultation on plain packaging. Times have moved on, but the fight is not over just yet.