NFRN: Government Lets Down Shopkeepers

By National Federation Of Retail Newsagents, PRNE
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

LONDON, March 9, 2011 - The National Federation of Retail Newsagents feel angered and let down by
the government's decision to push ahead with a ban on the display of tobacco
products while simultaneously pursuing the notion of plain packs. A shop with
plain packs that are hidden would be impossible to operate efficiently.
Government Ministers have admitted the display ban lacks evidence and will
seriously damage small shops[i].

In opposition, the Conservatives pledged to bring the relevant
legislation back to parliament for a free vote, while the Liberal Democrats
said they would amend the relevant regulations to allow for limited display.

The concessions to worried retailers on permissible display size and
gantry doors, revealed this morning, will be welcome but require further
clarification as they show little appreciation of how a small shop actually
works. The delay in implementation will help retailers prepare but does not
alleviate their concerns.

The NFRN welcomed the Prime Minister's speech at the Conservative Spring
where David Cameron declared war on "every regulator, every
official, even bureaucrat" who persist in "loading costs on to business" and
"concoct those ridiculous rules."

The suggestion of plain packaging for tobacco products is another example
of absurd regulation. With the prospect of both a display ban and plain
packs, the position for retailers is worse than envisaged. Imposing both
would be farcical and retailers fear that plain packaging will lead to a
surge in smuggling.

NFRN National President Parminder Singh commented:

"This is a government which makes great claims about being pro-small
business. This is a Prime Minister who makes all the right noises about
deregulation for small shops. And yet today they have failed utterly to
deliver on these promises for the shopkeepers of Britain. All we ask for is
evidence based policy making.

Over the last few months more than 80 MPs have given their support to a
cross party backbench initiative led by Mike Weatherley and Adrian Sanders
which called on the government to conduct a full re-examination of the
evidence both for and against a ban.

The NFRN argues that the display ban is a red tape issue, an example of
heavy handed regulation disproportionately hurting small shops, not a health
one as demonstrated by all independent evidence[ii] which shows that the
measure fails to reduce levels of smoking.

The ban will damage retailers, forcing many out of business due to the
high costs of converting their shops and the loss of trade that would follow.
Furthermore it will transfer market share from independents to supermarkets,
irreparably damaging communities and reducing choice for customers.

The NFRN is supportive of the government's aim to reduce levels of
smoking but has consistently said that this could be done more effectively by
making proxy purchasing of tobacco illegal; increasing access to Nicotine
Replacement Therapy and cracking down on illicit and smuggled tobacco - which
is the form most likely to be smoked by adolescents as it is an unregulated

Parminder Singh added:

"The government has failed to listen to the evidence and to the 80
Coalition MPs who support small retailers in their constituencies. It is
nothing short of a disgrace that not only has the government ignored its pre
election promise pledge to bring the proposed ban back for debate in
parliament , but is now thinking of throwing in plain packs on top of it. How
can we operate shops with products that all look the same and are in hiding?
The NFRN needs to be consulted on plain packaging and this time we hope that
the consultation is objective and evidence based."


[i] Earl Howe, Former Conservative Shadow Health Minister in 2009 and now
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, said in the House of Lords
on 6 May 2009:

"I believe that the Government's position (the display ban) is wrong for
two main reasons: the evidence base, and the likely damage that will be done
to small shops. I have looked at the evidence base very carefully indeed, and
I do not believe that a ban on the display of cigarettes in shops can be
plausibly linked to the take-up of smoking by the young. It is policy based
on weak scientific data, and it is policy where the unintended collateral
damage is likely to be unacceptable. For that reason it should be rejected."

Mike Penning MP, Former Shadow Health Minister and now a Transport
Minister, stated the Conservative commitment for revisiting the display ban
on 26 April 2009: "I know that many responsible retailers will feel their
views haven't been taken into account over the Government's ban on cigarette
displays. The need to reduce the number of smokers in this country is clear,
but I do not think it can be right to impose additional risk and burdens on
shops to introduce a measure for which evidence is lacking. I am not a lawyer
but I have always been concerned whether the Government's legislation on this
is legal. Therefore a challenge by way of a Judicial Review seems a sensible
thing to do. My party, if elected, would bring the Government's proposals
back before Parliament, but with a crucial difference - we would give a free
vote for Conservatives. Labour pushed the ban through by imposing the
strongest possible obligation on its MPs to vote in favour of the plans. By
contrast I believe that elected representatives should be able to vote
according to their consciences."

[ii] Ireland: Smoking rates among children increased following the ban,
from 10% to 10.5% for regular smokers, and from 1% to 3% for those who smoke
less than once per week

Canada: An Institute of Economic Affairs report concludes that the ban
has had no balancing public health gain

Iceland: An ESPAD report points to official Icelandic Government data
showing that the ban has had no impact on smoking among 15-19 year olds, with
smoking among that group being at its highest level for five years in the
year after the display ban

Australia: Any suggestion that a ban has reduced smoking is deceiving -
no post ban smoking prevalence figures have been released.

For further information contact Anne Bingham, NFRN Communications
Manager, on +44(0)7879646842 or Niki Haywood, Public Affairs Manager, on
+44(0)20-7017-8864, niki at

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