A tobaccoo 'powerwall'

"Powerwalls" help market cigarettes

Cancer Research UK and our supporters have long called for an end to ‘tobacco powerwalls’ in shops.

The large brightly lit displays act like big adverts for tobacco brands and, placed next to the sweets and crisps in shops, tobacco displays make smoking seem like a normal, everyday activity.

Smoking’s an addiction that’s encouraged by tobacco companies’ marketing, which is designed to hook more people and keep current smokers hooked. Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world, and accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths.

MPs voted to ban these displays last year, but the new Government has yet to implement this decision. We need your help to persuade them to act.

Your help is especially urgent given that, a week ago, several newspapers reported that the Government was planning to “water down” the legislation banning tobacco display ads. “Big Tobacco and small traders unite to fight ban on cigarette displays”, claimed the Observer, while the Sunday Times went with the headline “Law to curb smoking eased” (needs subscription).

These reports are worrying, as is the amount of effort the tobacco industry has spent lobbying on this issue.

In response to this, we jointly wrote a letter to the Sunday Times, together with ASH, the British Heart Foundation, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and the British Medical association, which was published yesterday:

Plans to “water down” measures to end tobacco displays in shops would be a big blow to Andrew Lansley’s plan to relieve pressure on the health budget by stopping people getting ill in the first place. Tobacco is the biggest cause of preventable death, killing 100,000 people a year. With the end of most cigarette advertising, and the introduction of the smoking ban, smoking rates among 11- to 15-year-olds have halved since the mid-1990s.

But cigarettes continue to be temptingly displayed along with sweets and crisps. Ireland stopped such displays a year ago and research has found far fewer Irish children now think smoking is common among their peers. They also think it is harder to buy cigarettes today. Irish tobacconists found it cost the equivalent of a few hundred euros to convert each shop, and the tobacco manufacturers often paid.

The tobacco industry claims cigarette displays prevent smuggling, but covering displays made no difference to the long-term smuggling trends in Ireland. The truth is, these displays advertise deadly products and help recruit teenage smokers.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive, Cancer Research UK
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman, British Medical Association
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
Peter Hollins, chief executive, British Heart Foundation

In a separate move, a group of academics have also written to the Observer, echoing our views.

The fate of the display ban now hangs in the balance – so the more MPs hear from our supporters, the more likely they are to take the decision that prioritises the nation’s health.

Find out how you can persuade the government to act by visiting our Cancer Campaigns website.