It was way back in 2009 that the then Public Health Minister Shona Robison stood up in the Scottish Parliament and announced various tobacco control measures in order to protect our children from tobacco industry promotion
The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 included measures to ban the sale of tobacco from unstaffed vending machines, and to ban glitzy tobacco displays in shops – changes which have been fought tooth and nail by tobacco companies desperate to preserve their sales and profits.
For tobacco displays various pieces of research show that tobacco displays normalise the idea of smoking amongst children. For example an evaluation of the recent display ban in Ireland found there was an immediate impact on young people’s views of smoking, with them less likely to see it as a normal thing to do.
The issue is about advertising. We’ve all had the experience of walking into a supermarket to be met by a brightly lit, colourful wall of tobacco products. Tobacco is highly addictive and it kills half of its long term users. We can’t treat it like a normal product and for many years we have been shutting down the opportunities for advertising tobacco – we no longer see tv or billboard adverts, we don’t see sports sponsorship. It is a logical next step to get rid of these bright, colourful promotional displays.
Although passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament, and twice upheld in the Scottish courts, Imperial Tobacco took their opposition all the way to the UK Supreme Court, arguing that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to intervene in this way. Their arguments were unanimously rejected by 5 of the most senior judges in the land.
Responding to the announcement ASH Scotland’s Chief Executive, Sheila Duffy, said:
“The banning of glitzy tobacco displays and unstaffed vending machines takes us one step closer to a society where our young people do not feel pressured or tempted to take up smoking. By attacking these legitimate health measures Imperial Tobacco has revealed its own naked self-interest and continued a long tobacco industry tradition of putting profit before the protection of young people.”
“Given that about 40 young Scots take up smoking every day, these repeated legal challenges mean that 40,000 young Scots will have taken up smoking since this legislation was passed. There must be no further delays and I look forward to these life-saving measures being implemented.”
“Scottish Ministers should be congratulated for facing down these bullying tactics from the tobacco industry, and for producing stronger restrictions on tobacco displays than elsewhere in the UK.”
The vending machines, along with displays in large stores, will disappear in April 2013 – and we’ll report on that in this blog. Small shops have until 2015 to remove their tobacco displays.