Tobacco products will go under the counter in England after all – but not until April 2012 for large stores and 2015 for smaller shops.

Announcing sweeping plans to reduce the impact from smoking on public health, the government today confirmed its intention to bring in the controversial display ban. But it is delaying and amending the ban to reduce the impact on retailers.

Planned amendments will make it easier for retailers to carry out the day-to-day running of their business without breaking the law – such as being able to carry out stock-taking or maintenance work while there are customers in the store.

Under existing legislation, the ban for larger stores was due to take effect in October with smaller shops having a further two years to comply.

The government has also revealed plans to look at whether plain packaging for tobacco products would help cut the number of young people taking up smoking and support adult smokers who want to quit.

A consultation on the issue is planned for the end of the year.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) vowed to defend existing legislation against legal challenges from the tobacco industry and said he would continue using taxation to maintain the high price of tobacco products.

“Smoking affects the health of smokers and their families,” he said. “My ambition is to reduce smoking rates faster over the next five years than has been achieved in the past five years.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish government today revealed that it would develop a revised timetable for implementing the tobacco display ban north of the border following the conclusion of an ongoing legal challenge.

The implementation dates in Scotland would mirror those set out by Department of Health in England.

“We are disappointed that government are pressing ahead with a tobacco display ban imposing £40m of costs on small retailers,” said James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores.

“There simply isn’t the evidence to suggest the measure will reduce smoking amongst young people [and] the concessions made are not sufficient to allay the long-term harm it will cause for local shops.”

Read more
Lansley tipped to press on with plain packs for tobacco (7 March 2011)
Wragg to forefront of Imperial's display ban fight (26 February 2011)
Focus On Tobacco (19 February 2011)