Ban on tobacco display to go ahead in Scotland after court ruling

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 13 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8490
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies has lost a two year legal battle to try to prevent a ban on cigarette displays and vending machine sales in Scotland.

A panel of five judges in the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected Imperial Tobacco’s contention that the Scottish parliament acted beyond its powers in passing the relevant legislation. The company argued that only the UK government in Westminster could decide such matters.

The ban on cigarette vending machines and tobacco displays in shops will now be introduced in April, two years after the legislation was passed. Such measures are already in force across the rest of the United Kingdom.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Scotland), accused the tobacco firm of “bullying tactics” in trying to block a move that would help to prevent young people taking up smoking.

The Scottish government said that it would now seek to recover the legal costs that had been incurred by taxpayers as a result of the action in the Court of Session, its appeal court, and finally the Supreme Court.

The ruling was welcomed by the BMA. Charles Saunders, its deputy leader in Scotland, said, “The display of tobacco products at the point of sale is just another form of advertising that reinforces the deceptive notions about the normalcy of smoking.

“Vending machines also allow for children to have unrestricted access to cigarettes. Today’s verdict will allow for Scotland to finally move forward on its bid to improve public health and reduce smoking.”

Imperial said that it was disappointed at the court’s decision. “We will now await the publication of the Scottish display ban regulations and will consider our options,” it said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8490