Legislation introduced in the Health Act of 2009 requiring all large shops and supermarkets (larger than 280 square metres) throughout England to cover up all cigarette and tobacco displays, an effort that hopes to keep children and young people from being enticed by tobacco advertising and to help existing smokers kick the habit, took effect earlier this month, according to the English Department of Health.
Under the new legislation, all tobacco products are to remain out of sight at all times except when conducting day-to-day tasks like restocking or serving customers. Violators of the mandate are subject to fines of up to £5,000 and could face imprisonment.
“We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching cigarette displays. Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers and we need to stop this trend,” Health Minister Anne Milton said in a statement.
Statistics shared by the Department show that there are still eight million smokers in England, nearly two-thirds of whom say they picked up the habit before the age of 18.
Figures also show that:
- 5% of children aged 11-15 are regular smokers
- more than 300,000 children under 16 try smoking each year
- 39% of smokers say that they were smoking regularly before the age of 16
The move is part of England’s Healthy Lives, Healthy People tobacco control plan, which “sets out how tobacco control will be delivered in the context of the new public health system” in the country. Along with the ban on displays, the plan also includes commitments to research whether plain packaging would curb smoking amongst young and adult smokers, promote enforcement of tobacco legislation and encourage more smokers to quit, among other points.
Smaller shops and other tobacco retailers will not be subject to the Health Act regulations until April 2015.
In America, the Center for Disease Control has also taken recent actions to try curbing the smoking epidemic. In its first-ever advertising campaign, the CDC is currently running a series of graphic television spots, print ads and billboards depicting the most drastic effects of long-term smoking. One ad features a woman who lost her hair and teeth and had to have a tracheotomy after years of smoking left her with throat cancer walking viewers through her daily routine of inserting false teeth, donning a wig and inserting a hands-free device into the stoma in her throat.