Tobacco goes out of sight as shop keepers admit to little profit from cigs

Cancer Research UK

Retailers are preparing to end years of openly-displayed tobacco on their shelves, with nearly all (94 per cent) acknowledging they made little profit from selling the deadly product, according to a new Cancer Research UK report* published today (Friday).

“Smoking kills 100,000 people every year in the UK. From April tobacco will no longer be in plain view of children and young people every time they go into a shop." - Alison Cox

Researchers from King’s College London – who carried out the study - interviewed 62 retailers. While most felt that tobacco was an important part of their business almost all said they made little profit from it. In contrast, the tobacco industry rakes in £30 billion in profits each year.

The tobacco industry argued that removing tobacco displays would severely impact business for shop owners, but research does not support these claims.  Over two thirds of shop keepers were not against removing tobacco from sight. Furthermore, the long term decline in tobacco sales may explain why 40 per cent of shop keepers said they wanted to reduce their reliance on selling tobacco.

Small shops** have to remove tobacco from sight by April 6 2015, bringing them into line with larger shops that stopped displaying tobacco back in April 2012.

A YouGov survey*** shows that 79 per cent of the British public support Government action to reduce the number of young people who start smoking and 75 per cent support putting  tobacco displays out of sight in all UK shops.

Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, said: “Removing cigarettes from sight behind shop counters is a practical step towards protecting children from tobacco marketing. In addition, retailers showed an interest in reducing their reliance on tobacco sales – we know that they will benefit from consumers purchasing products other than cigarettes, which are deadly and addictive. Other consumer products will have a higher profit margin than cigarettes. We should explore how best to support retailers in diversifying away from tobacco.”

“As the doors shut on tobacco retail displays, we can look forward to the last main channel of tobacco promotion, the current glitzy and attractive tobacco packaging, being closed off with the vote for standardised packaging coming soon.”

The Trading Standards Institute will be responsible for inspecting small shops and enforcing the law. It is also supportive of the change.

Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said: "We encourage the reduction of tobacco use by those who are underage. Prevention and early intervention not only saves the tax-payer money, it saves lives. Trading standards continues helping businesses interested in complying with government regulations.”

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “Smoking kills 100,000 people every year in the UK. From April tobacco will no longer be in plain view of children and young people every time they go into a shop.  Research shows that children exposed to tobacco displays are more likely to start smoking and removing these eye-catching, colourful walls of cigarettes will protect them from tobacco marketing. Our successful ‘Out of sight, out of mind’**** campaign will help reduce the devastating impact of tobacco and has taken us a step towards achieving Cancer Research UK’s goal of creating a smoke-free generation.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

* Robert Calder, Sara Hitchman, Catriona Rooke and Ann McNeill. ‘Closing the Doors on Tobacco Promotion’. Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. March 2015

** Large shops are those with over 280 sq m of floor-space.

*** All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,834 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 14th January 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

**** ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ campaign: