Four tobacco giants have dropped their legal challenge to a ban on displaying tobacco products in shops, the Government has said.
The Department of Health (DoH) confirmed the companies - Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris - are withdrawing their legal challenge against the new laws to end the display of tobacco in England. They had called for a judicial review on the issue.
The law will come into effect in April 2012 for supermarkets and large stores, and in April 2015 for all other shops that sell tobacco.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: “Removing tobacco displays from shops will help to stop young people from starting smoking and help smokers that want to quit. Withdrawing this legal challenge is a victory for public health.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “What a wonderful Christmas present from the tobacco industry. This will bring festive cheer to all those working to prevent children and young people from taking up smoking.”
Japan Tobacco told Reuters its decision was taken due to the DoH’s decision not to approve final rules until March 2012 at the earliest and so this meant little time for the English High Court to make a decision before the ban took effect. “The delays experienced in the English display ban regulations being put in place mean that we have been left with no other alternative but to discontinue this challenge,” said a statement.
British American Tobacco added that the UK Government had made significant changes to the display ban to cut the burden on small retailers and so it had decided to withdraw its challenge and concentrate on working with retailers to deal with other difficulties the ban will pose.
Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said: “We were always confident that the tobacco industry would lose their case because the evidence shows that selling cigarettes alongside sweets and crisps makes them seem like a normal, everyday product rather than a deadly and addictive drug.
“Pursuing legal action to try to stop policies to reduce smoking backed by public health experts is a standard tobacco industry tactic. The threat of this legal action has put back action to remove tobacco displays in other parts of the UK.
“The Government will soon be consulting on putting cigarettes in plain packaging so that all tobacco products look alike, with no distinctive branding and with large picture health warnings. The tobacco industry will be making similar claims that the policy is illegal, but we expect that these claims will come to nothing as well.”