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All Party Group on Smoking and Health Chairman, Bob Blackman MP, calls on government to listen to tobacco retailers

Posted 02/11/22

An All Party Group on Smoking and Health today heard the results of a survey today showing that the majority of tobacco retailers support existing tobacco laws and also tougher regulations in future including a levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay for measures to help smokers quit, and raising the age of sale to 21. Conservative Chairman of the APPG, Bob Blackman, has secured the first backbench debate under the new government on Thursday 3rd November and plans to raise the findings of the survey in the debate.

Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health, said: 
 
“The main argument used by tobacco manufacturers’ against tobacco laws with politicians like me is that they harm small shops. What this survey of nearly 1,000 shopkeepers published today shows is that shopkeepers don’t think that’s true. The majority support existing regulations and want government to go further including by raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21.”
 
“On Thursday in a debate in the main chamber I will be calling on the government to publish a Tobacco Control Plan to deliver the smokefree 2030 ambition without further delay. I’ll be urging the government to listen to retailers who want government to implement tougher regulations, that’s what they think will be good for business, not de-regulation.”
 
The full findings of the survey of 961 independent tobacco retailers including newsagents, convenience stores, off-licences and petrol stations, commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), were published by ASH today in ‘Regulation is not a dirty word’ [1] [Tuesday 1st November] 
• 73% support a requirement for tobacco manufacturers to pay a fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking. (10% oppose)
• 54% support raising the age of sale for cigarettes from 18 to 21 years (27% oppose)
• 81% of local retailers in England support the introduction of a mandatory retail licence in order to sell tobacco (9% oppose)
• 83% support mandatory age verification for anyone under 25 (5% oppose) 
 
Furthermore nearly three quarters (71%) support larger fines for breaking the law, 81% support more regular checks by trading standards staff, 84% support quicker action when offences take place and 79% support closure orders for repeated breaches of tobacco laws. 
 
John McClurey, a retired local retailer in Gateshead, said: 
 “I’m not the exception, this survey proves what I have always believed, that the majority of retailers support tobacco regulations and want them to go further. We know that smoking is bad for smokers, and it’s bad for business too as it kills our customers. Tougher regulation would help stop underage sales and sales of cheap and illicit tobacco, and is the only way to bring about the end of smoking. The Government should listen to shopkeepers like me and take the tough action needed to deliver a Smokefree 2030.”
 
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: 
“To achieve a smokefree 2030, the government needs to ratchet up regulations to support smokers to quit and to prevent young people starting to smoke. Just like the public, the majority of retailers support key measures needed to bring smoking to an end, such as increasing the age of sale, introducing a tobacco licence and making tobacco manufacturers pay to help smokers quit. 
 
Retailers aren’t anti-regulation, they know that good regulation can make their lives easier by ensuring there’s a level playing field. That’s why they want to see the gaping hole in retail regulation closed through the introduction of a mandatory tobacco licence backed up by stronger penalties for breaking the law.”
 
John Herriman, Chief Executive Chartered Trading Standards Institute said: 
“Trading Standards professionals deal with tobacco retailers everyday, and we know that the majority of them are law abiding, and understand the need for increased enforcement to stop unscrupulous traders willing to sell cheap and illicit tobacco, and to sell to children. A mandatory licence to sell tobacco and age verification for anyone who looks under 25 would make it easier for trading standards to enforce the law, to the benefit of reputable retailers.”
 
There is currently no licensing scheme in place for tobacco, a product which kills up to two thirds of its users [2] and no mandatory age verification both of which are supported by over 8 in 10 local retailers of tobacco. 
 
Retailers are used to complying with alcohol licensing schemes and are already required to have an economic operator ID before they can trade in tobacco as part of tobacco pack tracking regulations. [3] Mandatory age verification for anyone looking under 25, as has been the case in Scotland since 2017, would make enforcement in England easier both for tobacco and alcohol. [4]
 
A requirement for tobacco retailers to be licenced could help prevent sales to children and illicit tobacco by giving local authorities greater powers to take effective action against those who do not adhere to the regulations. 
 
ENDS
 
Notes to the Editor
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
 
For interviews and more information contact Sarah Jeffery sarahj@gardiner-richardson.com Mob: 07790 339059. 
 
References
 
[1] ASH. Regulation is not a dirty word. November 2022. Available from:
Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health, said: 
 
“The main argument used by tobacco manufacturers’ against tobacco laws with politicians like me is that they harm small shops. What this survey of nearly 1,000 shopkeepers published today shows is that shopkeepers don’t think that’s true. The majority support existing regulations and want government to go further including by raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21.”
 
“On Thursday in a debate in the main chamber I will be calling on the government to publish a Tobacco Control Plan to deliver the smokefree 2030 ambition without further delay. I’ll be urging the government to listen to retailers who want government to implement tougher regulations, that’s what they think will be good for business, not de-regulation.”
 
The full findings of the survey of 961 independent tobacco retailers including newsagents, convenience stores, off-licences and petrol stations, commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), were published by ASH today in ‘Regulation is not a dirty word’ [1] [Tuesday 1st November] 
• 73% support a requirement for tobacco manufacturers to pay a fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking. (10% oppose)
• 54% support raising the age of sale for cigarettes from 18 to 21 years (27% oppose)
• 81% of local retailers in England support the introduction of a mandatory retail licence in order to sell tobacco (9% oppose)
• 83% support mandatory age verification for anyone under 25 (5% oppose) 
 
Furthermore nearly three quarters (71%) support larger fines for breaking the law, 81% support more regular checks by trading standards staff, 84% support quicker action when offences take place and 79% support closure orders for repeated breaches of tobacco laws. 
 
John McClurey, a retired local retailer in Gateshead, said: 
 “I’m not the exception, this survey proves what I have always believed, that the majority of retailers support tobacco regulations and want them to go further. We know that smoking is bad for smokers, and it’s bad for business too as it kills our customers. Tougher regulation would help stop underage sales and sales of cheap and illicit tobacco, and is the only way to bring about the end of smoking. The Government should listen to shopkeepers like me and take the tough action needed to deliver a Smokefree 2030.”
 
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said:  (TBC)
“To achieve a smokefree 2030, the government needs to ratchet up regulations to support smokers to quit and to prevent young people starting to smoke. Just like the public, the majority of retailers support key measures needed to bring smoking to an end, such as increasing the age of sale, introducing a tobacco licence and making tobacco manufacturers pay to help smokers quit. 
 
Retailers aren’t anti-regulation, they know that good regulation can make their lives easier by ensuring there’s a level playing field. That’s why they want to see the gaping hole in retail regulation closed through the introduction of a mandatory tobacco licence backed up by stronger penalties for breaking the law.”
 
John Herriman, Chief Executive Chartered Trading Standards Institute said: [TBC]
“Trading Standards professionals deal with tobacco retailers everyday, and we know that the majority of them are law abiding, and understand the need for increased enforcement to stop unscrupulous traders willing to sell cheap and illicit tobacco, and to sell to children. A mandatory licence to sell tobacco and age verification for anyone who looks under 25 would make it easier for trading standards to enforce the law, to the benefit of reputable retailers.”
 
There is currently no licensing scheme in place for tobacco, a product which kills up to two thirds of its users [2] and no mandatory age verification both of which are supported by over 8 in 10 local retailers of tobacco. 
 
Retailers are used to complying with alcohol licensing schemes and are already required to have an economic operator ID before they can trade in tobacco as part of tobacco pack tracking regulations. [3] Mandatory age verification for anyone looking under 25, as has been the case in Scotland since 2017, would make enforcement in England easier both for tobacco and alcohol. [4]
 
A requirement for tobacco retailers to be licenced could help prevent sales to children and illicit tobacco by giving local authorities greater powers to take effective action against those who do not adhere to the regulations. 
 
ENDS
 
Notes to the Editor
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
 
For interviews and more information contact Sarah Jeffery sarahj@gardiner-richardson.com Mob: 07790 339059. 
 
References
 
[1] ASH. Regulation is not a dirty word. November 2022. Available from: https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/retailers-report-2022 
 
The survey was conducted by market research company NEMS, in March and April 2022. Interviewers conducted computer-assisted telephone interviews among a random sample of managers of small shops selling tobacco in all the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. A total of 961 agreed to take part in the study, including newsagents, off-licences, specialist tobacconists, local convenience stores/supermarkets (including symbol groups), and independent fuel stations. Retailers were sampled using an existing database with owners classified by geographic location and business activity type based on the governmental SIC code. Quota controls on business type ensured a proportional stratified sample. The report breaks down the figures by individual nation and focuses on the figures for England, and also contains figures for Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as for the UK as a whole.
 
[2]  Banks, E., Joshy, G., Weber, M.F. et al. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Med 13, 38 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-015-0281-z
 
[3] ASH Law and Policy Guide available online. Tobacco traceability and security features. [NB the ASH guide includes comprehensive information and links to all tobacco legislation]
 
[4] Scottish Government.  Selling Tobacco and/or Nicotine Vapour Products: Age Verification. 2017 
 
The survey was conducted by market research company NEMS, in March and April 2022. Interviewers conducted computer-assisted telephone interviews among a random sample of managers of small shops selling tobacco in all the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. A total of 961 agreed to take part in the study, including newsagents, off-licences, specialist tobacconists, local convenience stores/supermarkets (including symbol groups), and independent fuel stations. Retailers were sampled using an existing database with owners classified by geographic location and business activity type based on the governmental SIC code. Quota controls on business type ensured a proportional stratified sample. The report breaks down the figures by individual nation and focuses on the figures for England, and also contains figures for Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as for the UK as a whole.
 
[2]  Banks, E., Joshy, G., Weber, M.F. et al. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Med 13, 38 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-015-0281-z
 
[3] ASH Law and Policy Guide available online. Tobacco traceability and security features. [NB the ASH guide includes comprehensive information and links to all tobacco legislation]
 
[4] Scottish Government.  Selling Tobacco and/or Nicotine Vapour Products: Age Verification. 2017

 



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