According to the new rules, all tobacco products must be hidden from sight except when staff are serving customers, or restocking. Those in breach of the law could face fines of up to £5000 or even imprisonment.
Currently the ban only applies to shops covering more than 280 square meters. Smaller stores are exempt until 2015.
‘We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching, cigarette displays,’ said the British health minister, Anne Milton.
‘Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers and we need to stop this trend’¦ Banning displays of cigarettes and tobacco will help young people resist the pressure to start smoking and help the thousands of adults in England who are currently trying to quit.’
Similar bans in South Africa
‘We hope that the South African Minister of Health will do everything in his power to protect public health, and that would include considerations such as a partial or even total ban on displays of tobacco products,’ said Peter Ucko of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) in South Africa.
According to Ucko, there is ample scientific evidence that display bans work. ‘The tobacco industry place adverts in the form of signs, change mats or other displays on shop counters. In some cases, these displays are illuminated and have moving images and interactive features,’ he said.
Tobacco brand names are placed on these eye-catching displays and have become a ‘normal part of daily life’ for people who frequent these shops, including children.
‘What the tobacco industry does is criminal,’ said Ucko. ‘Often these displays are right next to sweets and products for young people and children. Brand exposure influences people and particularly the youth to take up smoking.’
According to Ucko, limiting tobacco displays at retail are being considered in South Africa, and new regulation in this regard is on the cards.
It is estimated that there are between 5 and 7 million smokers in South Africa, and 44 400 people die of smoking in this country alone each year.