Rate of tobacco giant to overthrow the government of Scottish legislation to ban cigarette machines north of the border yesterday was rejected by the judges of appeal.
Politicians on all sides welcomed the decision, hailing it a major step forward in improving the health of the nation.
The Scottish Government said that it was looking for, finally, the implementation of the ban, which was held up to legal action. MSPs passed a law banning vending machines in 2010, as part of a drive to reduce smoking.
The ban was due to begin in October 2011, but Sinclair Collis, largest trading cigarettes in the UK operator, call it to the court session in May last year, arguing that it is against the European Convention on Human Rights.
Firm lost the challenge, but appealed.
However, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lords Osborne and Bonomi, yesterday agreed with the previous decision of the Lord Doherty.
The court heard that a policy memorandum issued by the Scottish Government, where the proposed new laws were first put before the SMP in 2009, said that one of the goals was to stop young people smoking.
He referred to the estimated more than 36 million cigarettes sold every year from about 6,500 ATMs in Scotland.
Scottish government said vending machines are not associated with routine inspections of age – as opposed to purchasing alcohol or fireworks – and argued that the ban was “the only way to be absolutely sure” that underage people do not access cigarettes from the car.
Sinclair Hollis said that owns and operates the machines throughout Scotland, and they were imported from Spain, parts of Spain and Germany. He argued that the ban would have the effect of limiting their import and hinder trade between the UK and other European Union countries in violation of the “internal market” contract.
He also said that “less restrictive alternative” was available as a remote radio controlled cars in a highly regulated space. However, Lord Carloway said in the appeal judges agreed with the approach of the Lord Doherty last year, rejecting the arguments.
He added: “The court understands that the specific purpose [the ban] is to reduce the availability of cigarettes to under-18. It is part of a strategy aimed at reducing smoking and thus improves public health.
“It is not disputed that the objective is legitimate. Question is whether a ban on vending machines is proportional method to achieve the goal.”
The government had to show proof that justifies the ban from a health perspective. The judge said: “The government and the parliament have had a significant amount of material to demonstrate the dangers of smoking by young people, especially to their health in later life.
“The material has shown that many young people get cigarettes from vending machines. This was relevant or appropriate steps, as part of broader efforts to reduce smoking.”