Welsh Assembly government unveils new tobacco control measures

In collaboration with Adfero

New proposals to protect children and young people from tobacco-related harm have been unveiled by the Welsh Assembly government.

Edwina Hart, the country's health minister, claimed that the measures "strike the right balance" between protecting children from the serious risks of smoking and ensuring the regulations are workable and cost-effective.

They include a ban on the display of tobacco products in shops; an end to the sale of tobacco products via vending machines; and a limit on the size of price lists for tobacco products in stores.

But specialist tobacconists will still be able to display products inside their shops as long as they are not visible from outside.

It is hoped that the regulations will protect children from tobacco advertising, while still allowing shopkeepers to trade efficiently.

They will now be the subject of a three-month consultation - ending on July 6th 2010 - with a view to introducing the ban on tobacco vending machines and restrictions on displays in small stores in October 2011, followed by similar restrictions for larger businesses in October 2013.

Tony Jewell, chief medical officer for Wales, commented: "Two-thirds of adults who have ever smoked say that they started before they were 18 and the majority of under-age smokers get their cigarettes from self-service tobacco vending machines.

"Removing tobacco products from public display and banning cigarette vending machines will reinforce the vitally important public health message that smoking is harmful and addictive and reduce the opportunity for young people to access these products."

Conservative shadow health minister Andrew RT Davies AM said: "It is essential that the minister ensures that these proposals are part of a range of effective measures aimed at reducing the numbers of smokers in Wales.

"We must encourage children and young people to take advantage of the local community smoking cessation services that can assist them as they try to stop smoking."

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "We welcome the announcement that the Welsh Assembly aims to ban cigarette vending machines and remove point of sale tobacco displays.

"Putting tobacco out of sight, out of reach and hopefully out of minds will help reduce the number of young people taking up a lethal addiction. It is vital that young people are protected from tobacco marketing if the number of lives blighted by smoking is to be reduced."