It could have been done and dusted by now - your tobacco gantries could well have been condemned to the skip this week, and, some say, your business might have been heading that way too.

But the delay in passing the Health Bill (see News p4) has given retailers a vital three-month window in which to persuade MPs to see the folly of the display ban, an ill-conceived and untested solution to stopping young people taking up smoking.

With your MP back in their constituency for the summer, now's your chance to tell them face-to-face how the ban would affect you and, just as important, show them how rigorous you are in ensuring that your staff never sell cigarettes to children.

Why fight the ban?
● There's no international evidence that it will work

● It will impose costs of £1,500-2,000 on your business

● It will damage stores, deprive communities and fuel the illicit trade.
That's the starting point for Steve Denham, owner of a Londis store in West Chiltington, West Sussex, who is putting a simple proposition to the tobacco companies, the wholesalers, the multiples, the trade associations and his fellow independents: let's get our own house in order.

"We need to take responsibility," says Steve. "This delay has given us a chance to do something positive. We should look at what the government really wants to achieve and then make positive efforts to support that aim."

Steve's solution is an industry-wide initiative to establish a best practice approach to age-restricted sales. He favours the We Expect ID scheme adopted by most convenience chains in Canada, which encourages stores to put their staff through an online certification process and then continuous education,

in-store materials and constant reiteration of the consequences of selling to minors, which give stores of all sizes a template for an effective policy.

The No ID No Sale scheme currently supported by the industry could be adapted, he says, to include a national staff training programme with a test and certification process.

"What we currently have has failed to bring an end to underage purchasing from the multiple and retail estate," Steve says. "My challenge to the whole industry is to deliver a best practice training and management system by the end of 2010, and to stamp out test purchase failures by October 2011."

Time's a lot tighter than that, however, as he believes a united industry proposal needs to be put forward at the political party conferences, the first of which is in September.

"The industry has until the party conference season to get a UK version of We Except ID planned and ready to talk about. It is time that we demonstrated ourselves to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, when it comes to tobacco access by young people."

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