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Cigarette ban proposals welcomed

25 May 08 11:45 GMT

Plans to ban the open display of cigarettes in Scottish shops have been welcomed by the UK health secretary.

Alan Johnson said it was important to stop children from taking up smoking.

But he told BBC One's Andrew Marr show that Scottish Government plans to ban 10-packs of cigarettes would "have to be looked at".

Ministers last week announced a raft of plans to restrict and enforce tobacco sale in the drive to cut smoking - one of Scotland's biggest killers.

Other proposed measures, some of which would need the co-operation of Westminster, included tobacco licensing and a move to plain packaging for cigarettes.

Mr Johnson said the UK Government was considering similar moves.

He said: "Banning vending machines, where you can't have any control over the age of the person who's buying it, happened in many other European countries a long time ago, with startling results there."

The health secretary went on: "The ability to buy 10 cigarettes - I'm going to have to confess I started smoking very young when I was a kid, and you could get 10 woodbines, and you could get thrupenny singles.

Well they've taken thrupenny singles away. Whether you should still be able to buy 10 cigarettes or whether you should insist that you can only buy 20, that's an issue we need to look at."

It is two years since Scotland led the UK in banning smoking in enclosed public places, and six months since the legal age for buying cigarettes was raised to 18.

Mr Johnson's comments were welcomed by anti-smoking group Ash - but pro-smoking organisation Forest has dismissed the Scottish plans.

Smoking in Scotland is responsible for about 13,000 deaths and 33,500 hospital admissions each year at a cost of £200m to the health service.

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