Gaelle Walker

Convenience stores will have to comply with a tobacco display ban, but have been granted an additional 18 months in which to make the necessary changes, the government’s long-awaited Tobacco Control Plan has revealed.

Putting an end to the speculation that has troubled the trade for more than three years, health secretary Andrew Lansley finally announced that the implementation dates for small stores would be pushed back from October 1, 2013 to April 6, 2015 to help them better prepare.

Larger stores have also been granted a small reprieve their dates having been pushed back six months to April 6, 2012 just over two months before the Olympic Games kick off.

The government has also attempted to make it easier for retailers to comply with the ban by relaxing some of the legislation covering gantry replenishment.

Lansley said this “greater flexibility” would ensure that retailers could “more easily carry out the day to day running of their businesses without breaching the law for example, being able to undertake stocktaking or maintenance work while there are customers in the shop”.

The size of the requested display area (the segment that can be shown following the request of an adult customer) will also be increased from the initial plan of 0.75 to 1.5 square metres. It’s a concession that means many small stores need only fit a single sliding cover.

Lansley also confirmed that the government would consult on whether plain packaging would impact on youth smoking and adult quitting rates. “The government wants to make it easier for people to make healthy choices, but wants to understand whether there is evidence to demonstrate that plain packaging would have an additional public health benefit,” he said. “We will explore competition, trade and legal implications, and the likely impact on the illicit market,” he said.

Interested parties have until March 31 to respond to the Tobacco Control Plan, with a fresh consultation due on plain packaging later this year.

vital statistics

April 6, 2015: That’s when small stores (those under 280sq metres) must comply with tobacco display ban legislation. Larger stores must comply with the legislation by the earlier date of April 6, 2012 1.5 sq metres: That’s the size of the display retailers will be allowed to show while serving customers or re-stocking. It was previously planned to be 0.75sq metres Autumn 2011: That’s when the government is expected to launch a consultation on the impact of plain packaging for tobacco products 3 percentage points: That’s how much the government wants to reduce smoking rates among 15-year-olds by 2015. The rate is currently 15%.