Tobacco firms withdraw legal challenge to display ban

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government will no longer face a legal challenge from four tobacco firms over its plans to ban tobacco displays from English shops, ministers have revealed.

The planned challenge has now been withdrawn by Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, the Government confirmed.

The Coalition Government plans to prevent tobacco displays from appearing in large shops and supermarkets from this April with the help of a new law. The ban will apply to other tobacco sellers from April 2015.

Speaking to Reuters, Japan Tobacco said it decided to withdraw its legal challenge because the Department of Health is unlikely to approve its final rules until March. This means there would be little time for a court decision before the introduction of the ban.

Commenting on the withdrawal, public health minister Anne Milton said: "Removing tobacco displays from shops will help to stop young people from starting smoking and help smokers that want to quit. Withdrawing this legal challenge is a victory for public health."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's director of policy, said: "We were always confident that the tobacco industry would lose their case because the evidence shows that selling cigarettes alongside sweets and crisps makes them seem like a normal, everyday product rather than a deadly and addictive drug. Pursuing legal action to try to stop policies to reduce smoking backed by public health experts is a standard tobacco industry tactic. The threat of this legal action has put back action to remove tobacco displays in other parts of the UK.

"The Government will soon be consulting on putting cigarettes in plain packaging so that all tobacco products look alike, with no distinctive branding and with large picture health warnings. The tobacco industry will be making similar claims that the policy is illegal, but we expect that these claims will come to nothing as well.

"Politicians need to be strong to stand up to the tobacco industry so we congratulate the Government on their commitment to put the protection of children before tobacco industry interests.

"It's vital that everything is done to put tobacco out of sight and out of mind to protect future generations of children. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely because of their use of tobacco, and most become addicted as teenagers. Lung cancer remains the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, and up to eight out of 10 cases are caused by smoking."

Copyright Press Association 2012