Mike Penning is MP for Hemel Hempstead and a shadow health minister. Here he argues that the Government's latest proposals to prohibit the display of tobacco products in shops is not an effective way to reduce smoking but that it will harm retailers.
The Government’s Health Bill formally came before Parliament in mid-January. At the heart of Labour Ministers’ legislative proposals are far-reaching alterations to the way tobacco is sold in this country – so-called ‘point of sale’ reforms – coupled with measures restricting the use of vending machines. If passed, this Bill will effectively prohibit the public display of tobacco products in supermarkets from 2011 and smaller shops from 2013.
We are committed to doing all we can to reduce smoking rates, particularly amongst young people, but remain unconvinced at the evidence base so far presented – Labour even concedes the picture is ‘not definitive’ – and this has been brought into sharp focus by current economic trends. Very recently, the International Monetary Fund forecast that the British economy would shrink at a faster rate than any other developed nation in the world this year. While of course we hope such assessments prove incorrect, my colleagues and I are aware – not least from the testimonies of our own constituents – of the pressures faced by small businesses and retailers.