Are retailers ready for ban on displaying tobacco products?

By on 10/02/2015 in Blog

Jacqui Kennedy, Director of Regulation and Enforcement, sets out why city retailers must take heed of changes coming into force in April 2015.

From 6 April 2015, when new legislation comes into effect, retailers will have to remove all tobacco products from permanent display.

Under The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display) (England) Regulations 2010 and The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display of Prices) (England) Regulations 2010, it will be illegal to openly display tobacco products.

Why the ban on the display of tobacco is important

Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer, causing one in four deaths from cancer and up to eight out of ten cases of lung cancer.  Overall, 100,000 death are caused by tobacco each year in the UK.

It is also the number one cause of death and disease in Birmingham, where deaths attributable to smoking have been estimated as 302 per 100,000 of the population worse than the average for England (2014); this is equivalent to 1,360 deaths per year.

Tobacco causes more than 50 diseases; in Birmingham, the cost of treating people for smoking-related diseases is estimated to be £31 million per year. NHS England estimate £2 billion a year is spent treating smoking-related illness a year. At the moment one in every six adults in Birmingham smokes tobacco, of which nearly half are aged under 35.

Research shows that young people believe ‘behind the counter’ shop displays of cigarettes encourage smoking and are considered cool, fun and attractive (Health Promotion Practice 2010). Exposure to branding, packaging, retail provides positive smoking images for young people (2015 University of Edinburgh). According to Cancer Research UK, most smokers begin as children and in the UK about 207,000 children under aged 11 to 15 years start smoking (2013) – which is enough to fill 5,200 classrooms.

Therefore, it is vital not only to reduce levels of smoking, but also to prevent children accessing tobacco in the first place, thus stopping them from starting to smoke.

The changes

From 6 April 2015, it will be illegal for all retailers to openly display tobacco products and they will have to follow strict guidance on how their prices are displayed.

Advice letters have been sent to more than 500, potentially affected, retailers in Birmingham by the trading standards service.

Retailers can get more advice at or by contacting their trade association.

Large shops have had to comply with these rules since 6 April 2012, and we are pleased to say that on the whole, there is widespread compliance with the law.

The main rules are:

  • Openly displaying tobacco products is prohibited.
  • Shop keepers and their staff will need to check a customer is over 18 before letting them see tobacco products; they can do this by checking for approved photo ID such as passport or UK driving licence.
  • Tobacco products must not be left on display after a sale has been made.
  • Apart from tobacco price lists and labels (that comply with the law) customers must not be able to view any tobacco products or brands unless they have asked to see them.

Pricing rules:

  • Poster style lists (up to A3 size) can be permanently displayed.
  • A list which includes pictures of tobacco product can be shown to customers over 18 years of age but must not be on permanent display.
  • Price labels are permitted for each product and can be displayed on the covered shelves or on the front of the storage units

If a retailer fails to comply with this legislation, they could face going to court, and be fined up to £5,000, sentenced to up to six months’ imprisonment or both at magistrates court. On conviction in the crown court imprisonment is up to two years.

The Trading Standards Service takes tobacco control very seriously and works with partners to prevent the supply to children and also to stop the supply of all illegal cigarettes.

If you suspect that someone is breaking the law you can report it in confidence to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or by calling the Consumer Advice Consumer Service helpline 03454 04 05 06.

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