Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 17:44 UK

Tobacco ban law backed by MSPs

Shop cigarette display
Cigarette displays will be banned under the government proposals

New laws to end the display of tobacco in shops in Scotland have passed their first parliamentary hurdle.

The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Bill would also ban cigarette vending machines and introduce a registration scheme for retailers.

Scottish ministers said the move was needed to tackle Scotland's smoking-related health problems.

But the Tories voted against the bill, saying there was no proven link between tobacco displays and youth smoking.

The Tobacco Retailers Alliance has also attacked the legislation, saying it would prove costly for shops to implement, while accusing the government of breaking its promise to help small businesses through the economic downturn.

There is no conclusive causal relationship between tobacco displays and a higher prevalence of youth smoking
Mary Scanlon
Conservative health spokeswoman

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said there could be no let up in the fight against smoking-related illness, adding: "Some 15,000 children and young people start to smoke each year in Scotland and the potential impact on their health is frightening."

Labour's Richard Simpson said tobacco displays were undoubtedly a form of advertising.

He told MSPs he regularly asked schoolchildren visiting Holyrood what they see when they went into convenience stores, adding: "They refer to three things - sweets, alcohol and tobacco."

But Mary Scanlon, the Conservative health spokeswoman, protested: "There is no conclusive causal relationship between tobacco displays and a higher prevalence of youth smoking.

The party has also strongly opposed measures in the bill to exclude certain individuals or private firms from providing GP services to health boards.

Ms Scanlon gave the example of a GP practice she visited in Tower Hamlets, London, which was taken over by a private firm after the local primary care trust discontinued it, saying it could not happen in Scotland under the legislation.

Liberal Democrat MSP Ross Finnie welcomed many measures in the bill, but added: "I don't think at this late stage, given all the very genuine expressions that have been made, it is helpful that we still await to hear how this legislation is to be implemented."

MSPs backed the bill's general principles by 102 votes to 16, with one abstention. It will now move to the next stage of scrutiny.

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