Intended for healthcare professionals


Legal action delays ban on tobacco displays in Scotland

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 27 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d581
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

Legal action by the tobacco industry has forced the Scottish government to delay implementing a ban on displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products in supermarkets and large stores.

Imperial Tobacco has already lost a legal challenge to the legislation that introduced the ban in Scotland (BMJ 2010;341:c5473; doi 10.1136/bmj.c5473). It is now appealing that decision and a final ruling is not expected until later this year.

The ban was due to be introduced on 1 October for large retailers but, given the legal uncertainties, that deadline cannot be met. The Scottish government has announced that a new implementation date will be announced as soon as possible.

This comes as pressure is increasing to overturn similar bans in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which are due to start being introduced this year. This is being opposed by the tobacco industry and by retailers. Earlier in January the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium wrote to ministers in England demanding that they reconsider the plans.

Tobacco displays have been banned in many countries around the world including Canada, Iceland, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, and some Australian states but resistance continues in the UK. The ban in Scotland is part of a series of measures designed to reduce smoking, especially among children. Scotland’s public health minister, Shona Robison, said the government remained fully committed to introducing the ban to protect people’s health. “Banning the display of tobacco products in shops will help to discourage a future generation of smokers.”

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of the anti-smoking group ASH Scotland, criticised the tobacco industry’s continuing opposition. “Worldwide, the tobacco industry constantly seeks to delay, dilute or derail any policy or legislation that threatens its power to recruit new smokers and keep current smokers addicted. Despite losing the arguments over introducing a retail tobacco display ban, Imperial Tobacco continues to use its vast profits to challenge measures that are aimed at preventing young people from starting to smoke.”

The announcement of a delay in Scotland was welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores, which called on the rest of the UK to do the same. Its chief executive James Lowman said: “As ministers prevaricate on policy in England, and courts in England and Scotland consider legal challenges, uncertainty prevails and the retailer suffers. The delays and lack of clarity are making the situation impossible for retailers across Britain, it is now time for a delay.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d581