A Scottish MSP has set out plans to introduce an alcohol-style licensing scheme for tobacco retailers in a bid to clamp down on underage sales.
MSP Christine Grahame plans to introduce a 'positive' licensing system for retailers in Scotland. Launching a consultation exercise on the proposal last week, Grahame said: "There is no effective deterrent for retailers who consistently sell cigarettes to those underage. I don't want to stop smokers getting cigarettes, but I do want the law properly upheld and enforced."
Under the plan, retailers would have to apply for a licence to sell tobacco, as they do for alcohol. Grahame also wants to increase penalties for those who sell to the underaged.
Criticising the plans, Chris Ogden, director of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA), said they would increase the regulatory burden on retailers. He said: "Retailers don't want a positive licensing system. We believe most retailers in Scotland and throughout the UK are committed to upholding the law on age-related sales, and that licensing - as proposed by Christine Grahame - would impose an additional burden of red tape on hard-pressed small businesses."
He added that the TMA supported plans by the UK government to introduce a 'negative' licensing scheme, which would not require stores to hold licences, but could mean that they have their rights to sell tobacco revoked should they repeatedly break the law.
Scottish Grocers Federation chief executive John Drummond also criticised the plans: "We are concerned that all retailers, responsible and rogue, are being classed in the same category," he said.
The consultation response will inform the Scottish government, which is publishing a new strategy on smoking prevention next year.