Britain’s three biggest tobacco companies are fighting for the right to display their products, asking for a judicial review of the Government’s upcoming ban on the display of cigarettes and other tobacco products in stores, Brand Republic reported.
Britain’s Health Act 2009 requires all cigarettes, cigars, pipe and rolling tobacco products to be hidden from view in England, Wales and Northern Ireland starting October 2011 in large shops and beginning October 2013 in smaller stores.
“The display ban will damage both competition and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of small businesses by imposing high compliance costs on them,” said Michelle Healy, general manager of British American Tobacco UK. “Driving the legal trade from public view will also play into the hands of illegal traders.”
But tobacco companies aren’t taking this lying down. The three companies, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, have issued pre-action letters to the Department of Health and now are planning to bring the issue to judicial review.
British American Tobacco believes the display ban could encourage smuggling and have a negative impact on small businesses and is anti-competitive under EU law.
“There is substantial evidence that tobacco displays promote smoking to young people and undermine the efforts of smokers to quit,” a Department of Health spokesperson said.
“We have worked closely with retailer representative organizations like the Association of Convenience Stores to develop regulations that will allow shops to cover displays in practical, cost-effective ways.”
One of British American Tobacco’s co-plaintiffs is London convenience store owner Hemang Patel of Portland Food and Wine. “We are responsible retailers and we do not sell to minors. Why are we the ones being punished like this simply for selling a legal product? The display ban regulations are complex, will be difficult to comply with and our efficient customer service will suffer,” Patel said.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents is also opposed to the ban, citing a lack of evidence of a reduction in youth smoking levels in Canada, Iceland and Ireland where display bans have been introduced.