Northern Ireland Announces New Tobacco Control Measures
Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey has confirmed plans to remove cigarette displays in shops and prevent underage access to vending machines.
The move is a further step aimed at reducing the level of smoking amongst children and young people in Northern Ireland and reflects plans recently announced in England and Wales.
Northern Ireland was included in the Department of Health (London) consultation on future tobacco controls in May 2008. The proposals to remove tobacco displays in shops, and for tough action to restrict access to vending machines, received strong support.
Confirming the proposals, the Minister said: "Following the introduction of the ban on advertising and promotion of tobacco, retail displays have grown in size and prominence. Research has shown that young people are particularly susceptible to tobacco marketing at point of sale and are more likely to take up smoking as a result of exposure to such marketing. I feel that it is time to put a stop to this.
“My goal is to protect children from smoking and I believe that this is a strong opportunity to do just that. Smoking is a life-threatening habit and we should do everything we can to reduce its prevalence."
If the plans go ahead, the Department and local councils will work with relevant organisations in order to provide support, and to minimise any burden on business.
The Minister continued: “The new measures will also impact on vending machines which are currently a common and easily accessible source of cigarettes for young people. I plan to use the change in legislation to further restrict access to these machines by those aged under 18.”
Commenting on the wider impact of the measure the Minister concluded: “Whilst the proposed changes will primarily benefit children and young people, they will also help those adults who are trying to quit. Following the introduction of smoke-free legislation, we have enjoyed some success of late with over 21,000 people setting a quit date through smoking cessation services in 2007/08 and this is something I wish to build upon.”
The proposals have been endorsed by the Northern Ireland Executive. The Minister will now seek the approval of the Assembly in due course by means of a Legislative Consent Motion. It is hoped that the new measures will come into effect in Northern Ireland in 2010.