Supermarkets are beginning to hide away tobacco products before the ban on cigarette displays comes into force on Friday. The restriction means all shops over 3,000 sq ft must remove packets of cigarettes, cigars, pipe and rolling tobacco from view. It has been introduced as part of the 2009 Health Act to help cut the number of people who smoke in the UK from 20 per cent to 18.5 per cent of the population by 2015.
In future, shoppers in supermarkets will have to ask to see a price list of products and an assistant will have to open the display before selling tobacco.
The Sainsbury’s supermarket in Oadby converted its tobacco kiosk last week.
Amanda Richardson, the store’s commercial manager, said: “We implemented the changes to our tobacco kiosk after hours.
“We placed sliding doors in front of the displays and removed other tobacco products from view.”
She said: “From now on people will have to request to see a price sheet and prove their age before the sales assistant goes to the cabinet to obtain the product and sell it.”
The first supermarket in the country to implement the ban was the Tesco store in The Square, Market Harborough.
It was run as a pilot scheme to be rolled out to its 2,865 stores across the UK before the ban came into force. However, Tesco refused to comment on how the trial went.
The display ban will be extended to small shops in April 2015.
Raj Aggarwal, owner of Londis, in Queens Drive, Wigston, said: “We shall have to see what impact the ban will have on supermarkets. It is the law but it will cost me a lot of money to adjust the counter.
“I think the move will drive more people, including children into the arms of the black market.”
The British Retail Consortium estimated that large retailers nationwide would have spent £15 million hiding cigarettes away when the ban becomes operational. It is opposed to the ban. Spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said: “We promote the responsible sale of tobacco products.
“But the Government is also consulting on plain packaging for tobacco products which would make the display ban irrelevant.”
Amanda Sandford, a spokeswoman for anti-smoking group Ash, said evidence from Australia and Canada showed banning displays led to fewer young people taking up smoking.