Display Erotic Magazines, Hide Cigarettes: New Rules

Will it be easier to buy an erotic magazine than a packet of cigarettes in future?

A lit cigarette in an ashtray, beside an open pack of cigarettes.
Dorling Kindersley
A lit cigarette in an ashtray, beside an open pack of cigarettes.

Shopkeepers in England will have to keep cigarette displays, which typically enjoy prime placement, out of sight from 2012 under new government rules aimed at curbing the health risks associated with smoking.

The rules, which enter into force for large stores in April 2012 and in April 2015 for all other shops, follow a 2002 ban on tobacco advertising and have come under intense scrutiny from retailers and industry groups.

The government is also considering a plan to introduce plain tobacco packaging to make smoking less attractive.

Such rules do not exist for so-called "lads mags", although a voluntary code of practice is in place for erotic publications and states they should be displayed out of sight and reach of children.

The announcement was timed to coincide with No Smoking Day, when an estimated one million smokers will try to quit.

The British Retail Consortium said in a statement Wednesday there was no evidence the new rules would make a difference to smoking habits.

"Retailers support efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking but there's no evidence that forcing shops to put cigarettes out of sight will make any difference. It puts new costs on retailers who are being forced to refit their stores, and will inconvenience customers who have to wait longer to be served," Andrew Opie, Food Director at the British Retail Consortium said.

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said that plain packaging was likely to lead to increases in the smuggling of tobacco products and in counterfeiting.

Shares in British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco fell after the government unveiled the plans.

But the UK government's Department of Health said it had extensive evidence that both tobacco advertising and tobacco promotion through displays of products encouraged young people to start smoking.

Across the globe governments are introducing new rulesin an attempt to stub out smoking.

Canada introduced a ban on cigarette displays in 2008 and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland plan to introduce similar bans.

One third of Europeans smoke and as many as 650,000 Europeans die prematurely every year because of tobacco use - more than the population of Malta or Luxembourg, according to European Commission data.

The EU has introduced legislation banning tobacco advertising in print media as well as on radio and the Internet. Sponsorship of events involving EU member states, such as the Olympic Games and Formula One races is not permitted either. Tobacco advertising on television was prohibited in 1989.