Government considers banning the display of tobacco products in shops

In collaboration with the Press Association

The government is considering plans to ban the displaying of tobacco products in shops and the installation of vending machines in pubs, it has been revealed.

Proposals include forcing shops to take cigarettes off display and sell them from under the counter in a bid to reduce the number of young people taking up smoking.

Pubs and restaurants catering to under-18s would no longer be allowed to have cigarette vending machines and there are also plans to make it easier for outlets to sell nicotine replacement gums and patches.

The Department of Health is considering the measures - which will be the subject of a public consultation in May - as part of its wider strategy to curb the uptake of smoking among young people.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Children who smoke are putting their lives at risk and are more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking later.

"It's vital we get across the message to children that smoking is bad. If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that."

Research has shown that a person who starts smoking at the age of 15 is three times more likely to die from tobacco-related cancer than someone who starts smoking in their late 20s.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, welcomed the proposals, noting that "anything that discourages people from taking up smoking will save lives".

"Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of cancer so the government's commitment to go further on tobacco regulation is critical. The fact is that half of all smokers will eventually die from smoking-related illnesses, and a quarter of those will die in middle age - between 35 and 69," Ms King revealed.

"We know the majority of smokers start smoking in their teens, so removing tobacco products from open display, stopping tobacco being sold from vending machines - as well as introducing plain product packaging - will all help reduce the perception that smoking is a common and desirable activity.

"If we are to achieve even lower smoking rates these proposals must complement other measures - such as price rises, controlling tobacco smuggling and support to smokers who want to quit - which have proved to be effective in stopping people smoking."