The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the government to give all backbenchers a free vote on whether to introduce a display ban on tobacco. The Association said its
comments followed Monday’s Second Reading of the Health Bill in the House of Commons when the Conservative Shadow Health Spokesman, Andrew Lansley, revealed in the debate that his party would be allowing his MPs a free vote. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have consistently stated that MPs will have a free vote on this issue. ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “With each
debate it becomes clearer that the government is basing its case for a display ban on flimsy evidence.
There is no analysis of the discreet impact of a tobacco display ban which points to this measure reducing youth smoking, with the government still relying on evidence of the impact of a host of in-store marketing activity that is already banned in the UK. Yet the costs to retailers are clear, with the government’s own view that a display ban will cost an average of £1,000 per store – with some paying much more.
“We believe that MPs should be able to exercise their judgment on the merits of the evidence. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are free to make up their minds – so should government backbenchers be. Ministers should not railroad this issue.”
The Health Bill, which includes a clause to introduce a display ban, will be debated in Committee next week, with a vote of the whole House of Commons likely before the end of June.
Mr Lowman continued: “Retailers can still make a difference by writing to their MP stating the simple case that our sector has been making throughout this debate: that there is no evidence for the benefits of a display ban, yet the costs to retailers would be significant. A free vote would allow MPs to weigh up these arguments.”
The ACS added that, in the same debate, new Health Secretary Andy Burnham confirmed that the government would not introduce the ban in small stores until 2013. In addition, a number of MPs pointed out the costs of the new proposals for retailers.
For more information on writing to MPs, visit www.acs.org.uk or call 01252 515001.