The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is calling on MPs to vote against the proposed tobacco display ban in the Commons today, as ministers have failed to provide full details of the ban in advance of the vote.

The Bill makes it possible for Secretary of State for Health Gillian Merron to impose a display ban on retailers but does not provide details of the regulations that will be imposed to ensure compliance. These details were expected to be made available to MPs last week.

ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “The minister committed to Parliament that it would have chance to understand the regulations that underpin the display ban before MPs are asked to vote. In failing to do this MP’s have been denied the chance to obtain a clear picture of what the regulatory burden on retailers will be, this lack of transparency is yet another reason why MPs should vote against the measure.

 “MPs will be unable to form a judgement on the cost of new equipment, store refits or the impact on staff, serving times and security. ACS has made a detailed case to the Department of Health that these costs are likely to be substantial," he added.

“The Tobacco Display Ban is a policy gimmick that will impose costs and disruption on retailers. The evidence that this will actually stop young people smoking just isn’t there.”

Last efforts

Convenience retailers and newsagents gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in a last-ditch effort to persuade MPs to vote against the proposed ban on tobacco displays.

The measure, part of the Health Bill, would see independent stores forced to remove or cover up their tobacco gantries by 2013.

More than 50 retailers were expected to lobby MPs outside Parliament, while the National Federation of Retail Newsagents held a final briefing session shortly before the debate began.

Retailers oppose the ban because:

 - There is no international evidence that such a ban is effective in reducing youth smoking, and parliament should not consider passing legislation without an evidence  base;

 - The ban will impose costs on retailers of up to £2500 per store;

 - Black market sales of counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes have rocketed in Canada and Ireland, where bans have been implemented;

- Retailers believe other measures, including a law to prevent adults buying tobacco on behalf of children, should be included in a cohesive policy to deter young people from smoking;

 - Hiding legal products from view, therefore denying customers the ability  to choose between brands, could be in breach of competition law.

Leading QC Lord Pannick has claimed that even if the legislation was passed, it would not carry any legal weight because the Government has failed to give proper notification of its intentions to the European Commission before placing the Bill before Parliament.