Tobacco giant loses display battle

In collaboration with the Press Association

One of the world's biggest tobacco firms has lost a Supreme Court fight against a planned cigarette display ban.

The UK's highest court dismissed an appeal by Imperial Tobacco against the Scottish Government's attempts to ban the open display of cigarettes in shops.

At a London hearing, lawyers representing Bristol-based Imperial asked a panel of five Supreme Court justices to analyse the issues.

This came after twice failing to persuade Scottish judges to set aside legislative provisions.

Ministers say display bans are needed to protect future generations from the "devastating effects" of smoking.

Imperial argues that there is no credible evidence that display bans cut tobacco consumption.

Imperial, the firm behind Lambert & Butler and Richmond cigarette brands, also opposed a ban on tobacco vending machines.

It argued that the laws dealing with display bans fall outside the scope of the Scottish Government and are matters reserved for the UK Parliament in London.

The company's civil court challenge delayed the implementation of these laws.

Ministers intended to introduce the display ban in large shops in Scotland in April.

Imperial initially sought a judicial review of minister's plans for display bans.

A judge in Scotland ruled against the firm in September 2010.

Imperial appealed, but three judges rejected their challenge in February.

That decision was welcomed by Scotland's public health minister Michael Matheson, who said the proposals would play a "crucial role" in preventing youngsters from starting to smoke.

But Imperial voiced disappointment and appealed to the Supreme Court.

Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, Robin Hewings, welcomed the decision: "It's good news that the tobacco industry has failed in another attempt to stop important policies to help cut youth smoking. Openly displaying cigarettes next to sweets and crisps sends the message that smoking is a normal part of everyday life while cigarette vending machines are a temptingly easy way for young people to buy cigarettes."

He said the latest defeat for the tobacco industry came in the face of claims by tobacco producers that restrictive policies surrounding the sale of tobacco were illegal. Over the last twelve months tobacco firms have lost cases in Scotland, 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," Mr Hewings continued.

"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. We look forward to the measures coming into force in Scotland in April 2013."

In the latest ruling, the justices unanimously dismissed Imperial's appeal, ruling that the two sections "are within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament".

Scottish Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: "We know that reducing the number of people that smoke will have wide benefits for Scotland's health and these bans will play a crucial role in preventing young people from taking up smoking."

Copyright Press Association 2012