New legislation came into effect on Friday to protect children from being the target of tobacco promotion and to help people quit smoking.
From today, all large shops and supermarkets in England will have to cover up cigarettes and hide tobacco products from public view.
Evidence shows that cigarette displays in shops can lure young people to start smoking. More than eight million people in England still smoke – it is one of biggest preventable killers causing more than 80,000 deaths each year. Nearly two-thirds of current and ex-smokers say they started smoking before they were 18.
Up until now, every time parents do their weekly shop their children are exposed to tobacco, making it a normal part of everyday life. Statistics show:
• 5% of children aged 11-15 are regular smokers;
• More than 300,000 children under 16 try smoking each year
• 39% of smokers say that they were smoking regularly before the age of 16.
Covering tobacco displays will protect children and young people from the promotion of tobacco products in shops, helping them to resist the temptation to start smoking. It will also help and support adults who are trying to quit.
Health Minister Anne Milton said: ‘We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching, cigarette displays. Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers and we need to stop this trend.
‘Banning displays of cigarettes and tobacco will help young people resist the pressure to start smoking and help the thousands of adults in England who are currently trying to quit.’
Jo Butcher, programme director of health and well-being at the National Children’s Bureau, said: ‘National Children’s Bureau welcomes the end of tobacco displays.
“Children and young people tell us that outside influences make it even more difficult for them to choose healthier lifestyles. A yet to be released National Children’s Bureau health survey has found that more than one in four young people felt they needed more information about the health effects of drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
‘It’s essential that we create a culture that promotes and protects public health and tobacco legislation is a significant factor in making this happen.’
Cigarettes and all tobacco products will have to be out of sight except when staff are serving customers or carrying out other day-to-day tasks such as restocking. Those responsible in shops not complying with the law could be fined up to £5,000 or could face imprisonment.