Wholesalers concerned at ‘tight’ tobacco display implementation date
The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) is warning that the Scottish Government's confirmation yesterday of the "tight" April 2013 implementation date of the tobacco display ban for larger shops is already creating nervousness in the trade.
Kate Salmon, SWA executive director, said: "In our view, this implementation date does not represent a 'fair timescale' as stated yesterday by Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson. It is less than four months away and we are concerned that this leaves enough time for stores to make the necessary changes to comply with the law. The threat of prosecutions looming in the coming months is bad for business."
Commenting on the Supreme Court's judicial review to defeat the legal challenge made by Imperial Tobacco against the Scottish Government's decision to ban the display of tobacco in shops and tobacco sales from automatic vending machines, Salmon said: "This is a bitter blow for Scotland's hard-working independent retailers.
"These small retailers - our members' customers - will now have to pay substantial amounts of money to cover up the tobacco gantries in their stores at a time when they are already drowning in legislation and unnecessary bureaucracy. While they will not have to comply with the new legislation until 2015, it places yet another burden on retailers who are selling what is a legal product. The timescale for larger shops - April 2013 - is also extremely tight.
"For shoppers, the tobacco display ban will inevitably lead to more queues at the checkouts and extra pressure on busy staff who, through no fault of their own, will take longer to serve customers."
Salmon also reiterated the widespread view within the industry that the display ban could boost illicit trade with smokers choosing to purchase cheaper cigarettes and tobacco products which have been imported illegally or are counterfeit products.
"Black market tobacco is already costing the UK an estimated £2 billion in unpaid taxes and any measure that makes it difficult to purchase legitimate product legally could drive consumers towards these potentially harmful products which are sadly commonplace and seriously threaten the future of legitimate businesses," she said.
Meanwhile, the industry is awaiting feedback from the UK Government on its consultation on cigarette packaging. Earlier this year, the SWA's trade-only 'Plain Nonsense' campaign against the proposals to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes and tobacco products gathered support from 3,000 independent retailers and wholesalers.
In a first for the wholesale industry, the SWA embarked on a robust campaign, urging independent retailers and senior cash and carry management staff to register their opposition to plans to standardise the packaging of tobacco products via a postcard, App and online.
Salmon said: "We have called on the Government to show leadership in addressing public health issues within the context of the many demands on our trade to play our part in the UK's economic recovery. There is no credible evidence that plain packaging will have an impact on smoking rates in this country and we reiterate our view that there is no need for further regulations on what remains a legal product.
"It is our obligation as a responsible trade association to do everything we can to protect the small, Scottish family businesses - our members' customers - that own and operate independent retail stores the length and breadth of the country."