The three major tobacco companies in the UK have announced they are to seek a judicial review of the relevant sections of the Health Act 2009 in which the government is looking to impose
the display ban of tobacco products in shops. Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and British American Tobacco – which included its UK subsidiary, two retailers and a German cigarette manufacturer in the announcement – are all involved in the move.
The Health Act 2009 requires cigarettes, cigars, pipe and roll-your-own tobacco to be hidden from view in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from October 2011 in large retailers and October 2013 in smaller outlets.
Michelle Healy, general manager at British American Tobacco UK Limited, said: "The display ban will damage both competition and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of small businesses by imposing high compliance costs on them. Driving the legal trade from public view will also play into the hands of illegal traders.
"These unwelcome effects are unjustified as there is no credible evidence that it will reduce smoking rates in the UK."
According to British American Tobacco, its co-plaintiffs are Portland Food and Wine, owner of six London convenience stores, Harendra Bhatt who owns one store in North London and German cigarette maker Tobacco Management & Consulting Company which had to abandon plans to enter the UK market in light of the new regulations.
The ACS warned that the legal proceedings had thrown the tobacco display ban plans for England into confusion. In reaction, it has written to Ministers calling on them to delay the planned implementation dates "as the prolonged uncertainty makes it impossible for retailers to prepare for the changeover of thousands of shops to the new regulations".
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has launched a three month consultation on the tobacco display ban regulations. According to Imperial Tobacco, these proposed regulations are distinct from those in England and Wales in the following ways:
• Requested display is limited to 120 sq cm
• Smoking-related products, such as rolling papers, cigarette tubes, filters, apparatus for making cigarettes, cigarette holders and pipes, are included
• Fixed penalty notices for proxy purchasing
• Fixed penalty notices for under 18s attempting to buy tobacco products
• Registration scheme for retailers of tobacco products which will start in March 2011
Imperial Tobacco’s UK public relations manager Iain Watkins said: "A requested display of tobacco products for Scottish retailers is impractical as it is limited to the size of a single cigarette pack. This would significantly increase transaction times, causing in-store confusion leading to a loss of trade.
"Imperial Tobacco urges retailers and all other interested parties to make their views known by responding to the consultation before the July 20 deadline."
Imperial Tobacco said it had legally challenged similar legislation in England and had also challenged the Scottish Government over the display ban.