Plans to restrict the number of stores selling tobacco in “deprived communities” and areas with high smoking rates are being mooted by the Scottish government.
The strategy to “restrict supply” forms part of the Scottish government’s new Tobacco Control Action Plan which re-enforces its ambition to create a tobacco-free generation by 2034.
It is just one of a range of measures to help curb smoking rates that the Scottish government plans to evaluate over the next five years.
“Restricting the number and the clustering density of tobacco retailers could make tobacco products less available, and therefore could reduce smoking rates,” the control plan states.
“We have reviewed evidence on the link between tobacco availability through retail outlets and local smoking rates.
“This suggests that restricting the number of outlets, particularly where smoking rates are highest (such as in more deprived communities), could have a positive effect on reducing smoking rates.”
The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) slammed the proposals which it claims could “see corner shops across Scotland forced to close, depriving many communities of crucial local services”.
National spokesman Suleman Khonat said: “The plan would look to restrict retail outlets selling tobacco according to their density within a particular area in an apparent effort to restrict the supply of tobacco to smokers.
“With tobacco sales making up around 30% of an average independent store’s income, it would be impossible for such impacted stores to stay open. Such shops also provide crucial local community services including post office and banking services.”
The strategy also raises the possibility of the creation of a new enhanced licensing scheme for tobacco retailers.
Other suggestions include extending plain packaging measures to the individual cigarette sticks themselves.
Changing the colour, composition and/or warning messages on each stick could make cigarettes “less attractive” to smokers, the plan states.
“There is some evidence that dissuasive colour or dissuasive messages on cigarettes could reduce the attractiveness of, and therefore the potential demand for, cigarettes. Other studies have considered composition – reducing the nicotine level or flavours that mask the true taste,” it adds.
Heated Tobacco Products (HTP) have also not been left out of the firing line, with plans to assess the impact of plain packaging on them, as-well as a ban on their use in public places.