Scottish cigarette vending appeal rejected

In collaboration with the Press Association

A legal challenge by the tobacco industry to a ban on cigarette sales from vending machines in Scotland has been rejected by senior judges.

The ban is one of several measures being introduced under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010.

Due to be implemented in October last year, the legislation was delayed after Sinclair Collis, the largest cigarette vending operator in the UK, challenged the ban in the Court of Session.

The company, owned by Imperial Tobacco, had argued the law was against the European Convention on Human Rights.

The firm lost the challenge and launched an appeal against the ruling.

But Scottish judges this week agreed with a decision made in May 2011 to ban cigarette sales from vending machines.

The court heard that a policy memorandum, issued by the Scottish Government when the proposed new laws were put before Scottish MPs in 2009, stated that one of the aims was to stop young people taking up smoking.

It referred to an estimate of more than 36 million cigarettes being sold every year from about 6,500 vending machines in Scotland.

The Scottish Government said vending machines did not involve routine age-checks - unlike buying alcohol or fireworks - and argued that a ban was the "only way to be absolutely certain" that under-age people do not access cigarettes from machines.

Sinclair Collis said the legislation would interfere with trade between the UK and Spain and Germany, where they import machines and parts from, which would amount to a breach of European Union rules on free trade.

It also said that a "less restrictive alternative" was available in the form of remote radio-controlled machines in highly-regulated premises.

But judge Lord Carloway rejected the appeal and concluded: "The prohibition cannot be said to have failed to strike a balance between the public interest in maintaining good public health and the petitioners' (Sinclair Collins) private economic interest in its use of vending machines."

Robin Hewings, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, added: "Cigarette vending machines are a ridiculously easy way for young people to buy cigarettes so it's good news that the court of appeal has backed the Scottish Parliament's law. The court's decision is another embarrassing defeat for the tobacco companies who have a tendency to claim that policies to cut smoking are illegal. Just in the last year they have lost a separate case in Scotland alongside others in England, Norway and Australia.

"Experience suggests they're aiming to intimidate governments from taking on tobacco companies and delaying policies that are not in their interests. Tobacco companies also claim that plain packs are illegal and will challenge them in the courts. Independent legal experts have said their cases are poor, so we expect the defeat today to be followed by further defeats for the industry over plain packs."

Copyright Press Association 2012