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Health Minister launches consultation on new tobacco control regulations

Friday, 1 October 2010

A consultation on regulating the display and sale of tobacco products was launched today by the Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey.

The consultation will seek views on banning the display of tobacco products by retailers and the prohibition of sales of tobacco products from vending machines.

Launching the consultation, Mr McGimpsey said: “I am committed to reducing the number of children and young people who take up smoking in Northern Ireland. Over three-quarters of adults who smoke here started the habit in their teens, and quickly became addicted. This is exactly what I want to prevent through these new measures.

"Children are particularly susceptible to tobacco marketing and are more likely to take up smoking as a result of exposure to it. By introducing measures banning cigarette displays in shops, we are protecting our children and young people, and we are also supporting those smokers in our society who are attempting to quit.”

It is proposed to introduce the regulations relating to tobacco displays at point of sale in shops from 1 July 2011 and in vending machines from 1 October 2011.

The Minister continued saying: “While only 1% of adults use vending machines, they are a regular source of tobacco for a significantly higher proportion of underage children. We would not accept alcohol being sold in this way. Therefore, we should not allow tobacco, which is also an age restricted product, to be sold through vending machines.

“It is important that we get the detail of the proposed new measures right in the regulations in order to ensure they will be workable when they are introduced. I therefore welcome all views and encourage anyone with an interest to provide my Department with their comments.”

The Department’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr McBride added: “This new legislation is necessary if we are to remain one step ahead of the tobacco manufacturers. Tobacco companies constantly look for new ways of promoting their products, often in ways that are attractive to young people and to those on lower incomes amongst whom smoking rates are highest. The display gantries in shops are now the chief means by which tobacco companies do this. It is our job in the Department to ensure that the health of the population is protected, which is why I fully support putting tobacco products firmly out of sight.”

In the past decade, smoking prevalence amongst adults has dropped from 29% to 24%. However, there are over 2,300 smoking related deaths each year. As with other preventable illness, smoking-related ill health impacts most on people from the more disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland.

The consultation is available on the DHSSPS website at and will last 12 weeks from 1 October 2010 to 24 December 2010.

Notes to editors:

1. Copies of the consultation document are available on the DHSSPS website.

2. The Department is committed to reducing smoking prevalence rates, including reducing uptake of smoking by children and young people. The latest survey results available show that almost 9% of 11-16 year olds in Northern Ireland are regular smokers.

3. Countries who have completely banned tobacco sales from vending include Vietnam, China, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Hungry, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia. Countries which have already introduced a display ban include the Republic of Ireland, Iceland, Thailand, Canada and Australia.

4. The regulations will be made under the Westminster Health Act 2009 which was granted Royal Assent on 12 November. England and Wales are proposing an introduction date of 1 October 2011 for large stores and 1 October 2013 for small stores.

5. Scotland introduced an Act on 25 February 2009 which allows for both banning displays of tobacco products at point of sale and banning sales of tobacco from vending machines.

6. The Republic of Ireland introduced a display ban and further restrictions on underage access to vending machines from 1st July 2009.

7. Press enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 2841, out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.