LONDON — Britain’s Department of Health announced a ban on displaying cigarettes in stores around the country on Thursday, the nation’s annual “no smoking day.” The action relegates cigarettes to a product kept below the counter.
The new law will be introduced gradually, according to a statement from the health agency. It says that in large stores and supermarkets, the visible display of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco products will be illegal from April 2012, while in smaller stores it goes into force in 2015, “except for temporary displays in certain limited circumstances.”
The ban is part of a government package of laws implemented in recent years that already prohibits tobacco advertising and smoking in public places. The laws also promote National Health aids to help people quit smoking and impose consistent price increases on tobacco products.
British health officials are also considering legislation to impose plain packaging of cigarette packets as a further disincentive, particularly to young people, for those who may fall for the allure of tobacco.
“Nearly all adult smokers started smoking before they turned 18 and every year, over 300,000 children under 16 try smoking,” said Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies.
“Smoking is undeniably one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health. Over eight million people in England still smoke and it causes more than 80,000 deaths each year," said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in his statement on the new law.
The government aims to reduce the adult smoking population from 21.2% to 18.5% or less and 15% to 12% or less among 15-year-olds by the end of 2015.
Mixed reactions greeted the ban as independent retailers complained it would burden them with the cost of refitting their stores and reduce their already narrow profit margins. Media interviews also showed many people remained skeptical about the real impact the ban would have, particularly on young smokers.