Wales politics

Tobacco display ban starts in big stores in Wales

A ban on big shops and supermarkets in Wales displaying tobacco has begun.

From Monday, cigarettes and other tobacco products have to be kept below the counter or out of customers' sight.

Businesses breaking the law - which came into force in England earlier this year - could be fined up to £5,000 or jailed for up to two years.

Smaller shops and tobacconists will be included in the ban in April 2015, but supermarket chain Morrisons said the two-stage introduction was "confusing".

The ban is supposed to remove the temptation for young people to take up smoking.

A ban was imposed on supermarkets in England in April, and the Welsh government said it delayed introducing its ban while it waited for the outcome of a legal challenge to the English legislation.

Shops will only be allowed to have cigarettes and tobacco products on display when staff are serving customers or carrying out tasks such as restocking.

Price lists will be printed on plain A3 sheets at tills with no branding on them.

Illustrated price lists will be available on request, but customers could be asked to prove their age when they ask to see them.

The Welsh government wants to reduce the number of people who smoke from around 23% of the population to 16% by 2020.

Eventually it would like to see a smoke-free society, Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said.

Tempt adults

She said: "Smoking remains a huge risk to public health in Wales. Around 20% of our NHS admissions are related to smoking, at a cost of more than £1m a day.

"We know that young people can be influenced by seeing cigarettes on display, and that they can tempt adults who are trying to give up the habit."

Trading standards will be working with businesses to enforce the law.

Ken Yorston, who chairs Wales Heads of Trading Standards, said: "We see the removal of tobacco from retail display as being a key factor in driving down the level of underage sales of tobacco products across Wales."

The ban covers shops with floor space of more than 280 sq m - the same threshold that applies for Sunday trading laws.

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Media captionChief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Ruth Hussey says there is growing evidence children and young people recognise brands and products

All affected businesses have been sent guidance.

The UK government consulted on the idea of introducing mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes over the summer.

Morrisons head of corporate affairs Guy Mason said: "We are quite happy to do anything to help those of our customers who want to give up smoking.

"But really we feel that the government are already consulting about plain packaging on cigarettes and we feel it would have been much more sensible to wait until the outcomes of that plain packaging consultation were known before banning the display of tobacco in large stores."

He said it was confusing for customers to see tobacco on display in corner shops, but not in supermarkets.

"If the government thinks this is the right thing to do, then really it should apply across the whole of the retail trade," he said.

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