Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cigarette machines to be banned

Cigarettes on a shelf
Ministers want to ban the open display of cigarettes in shops

Cigarette vending machines are to be banned in Scotland as part of plans to tackle child smoking.

Tobacco displays in shops will also be outlawed under proposed legislation brought forward by Scottish ministers.

A registration scheme would also be brought in for retailers, with fines for those who break the rules.

But retailers said the measures would do nothing to curb smoking, while thousands of small shops would lose much-needed business.

Scottish Public Health Minister Shona Robison said too many people had watched loved ones suffer and die from smoking-related illnesses.

This display ban is nothing more than a gimmick so the government can get a few headlines
Fiona Barrett
Tobacco Retailers Alliance
The Scottish Government wants to cut the number of young smokers to less than 23% by 2012.

Recent figures showed the number of young people smoking in Scotland had returned to a level last seen almost 10 years ago.

Measures under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Bill would also see shopkeepers banned from selling cigarettes if they continually break the law.

Ms Robison said the health risks associated with smoking were well documented, adding that someone who started smoking at 15 was three times as likely to die of cancer than someone who started in their mid-20s.

"The measures in this bill are aimed at stopping children starting to smoke in the first place, by making it less accessible and less attractive to them," she said.

"Too many people have already watched loved ones suffer and die as a result of smoking-related illnesses. I'm determined that we must do all we can to protect future generations."

'MSP clarification'

Scotland's chief medical officer, Harry Burns, said stopping young people from taking up smoking was one of the biggest challenges facing the country.

"Smoking causes enormous harm to people's health and I don't believe there is any justification for continuing to advertise such a dangerous product or make it freely available through vending machines," said Dr Burns.

The Tobacco Retailers Alliance said the legislation would cost shops up to 5,000 to implement, and accused the government of breaking its promise to help small businesses through the economic downturn.

Fiona Barrett, an independent Glasgow retailer who represents the alliance in Scotland, said: "Make no mistake, this has little to do with youth smoking.

Cigarette being stubbed out
Ministers want to stop young people from taking up smoking

"This display ban is nothing more than a gimmick so the government can get a few headlines.

"There is no evidence to suggest this would work - it is an experiment at the expense of our businesses."

Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, claimed the ban was unnecessary and unjustified, adding: "The last thing we need in the midst of recession is further regulation that will facilitate illicit trade in tobacco products and impact adversely on thousands of small retailers and the communities they serve."

The concerns were echoed by the Scottish Grocers Federation.

In a separate development, SNP backbencher Christine Grahame was forced to issue a clarification after she attacked the legislation, by saying the registration scheme would not be mandatory.

The South of Scotland MSP later issued a statement acknowledging it would be.

Gerard Hastings, of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at Stirling University, said of the bill: "It marks another step towards the day when Scotland will not just be smoke free, but tobacco free."

Doctors' body BMA Scotland gave its strong backing to the legislation, as did the Royal College of Nursing.

The bill will also close a legal loophole which allows commercial companies to operate GP surgeries.

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