New restrictions on display of tobacco products in shops will be announced today by the UK Department of Health as reports emerged that around 2,00,000 children under the age of 16 start smoking each year in Britain, despite opposition from certain quarters citing businesses of small stores would be hit and would have to shut.
Britain had already banned smoking in public places in July 2007 as well as increased the legal age to buy tobacco to 18 and now to deter children from buying cigarettes over the counter, the Health department will restrict display of cigarettes in shops and also stop sales from vending machines to children and will come age proofing measures.
New research has shown that one out every 10 children buy cigarettes from vending machines although as per law, these machines are supposed to be placed where the owner can supervise them.
Health secretary, Alan Johnson said that an overwhelming majority of people backed the ban and added that the same law implemented abroad showed no retailer going out of business while research has shown that after the implementation of such law abroad, underage smoking has reduced by as much as 10 per cent.
The Tobacco Retailer?s Alliance, which is a coalition of 25,000 independent shops, has said that the law would make about 2,600 retailers shut shops thereby adding 8,000 people to the unemployment list.
He promised that retailers will be given all possible help to deal with lower sales as the opposition parties have complained that such a ban would destroy local corner shops and newsagents that are already suffering from the economic slowdown.
Countries, which already have a ban in place or are planning to bring law regarding the display of tobacco, are Iceland, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.
Counters, which display cigarettes tempt even the would be quitter into buying them, say health officials and a study found that a third of smokers said it would help them to give up smoking if cigarettes were not displayed on the shelf.
The new law will prohibit the display of cigarettes but it may be kept under the counter and out of children eyesight and it can be placed in cupboards or at the back end of the store.
The British Heart Foundation has campaigned calling for a ban on the vending machines throughout the UK and some MP?s have also suggested that cigarettes to be sold in completely plain packets instead of covering the packet with new graphic images of the effects of smoking, which will make its appearance on all cigarette packets by October 2009.
Research has shown that smoking is the biggest cause of cancer and one in four cancer related deaths occur because of smoking in the UK and approx 200,000 under age children start smoking and their risk of premature death is almost three times higher than people who start in their 20s.
The British government spends £1.5 billion a year on treating patients with smoking related illness.