Health Act 2009
In 2009 Parliament approved measures to end the display of tobacco and to ban the sale of tobacco from vending machines. This was the culmination of a two-year campaign involving over 100 health and welfare organizations, thousands of individual citizens and many local tobacco control and health professionals.
The aim of the campaign was to convince Government to take legislative action to protect children from ongoing exposure to tobacco industry marketing by ending displays, removing tobacco vending machines and introducing plain packaging.
The Government agreed to consult on these issues as part of their 2008 consultation on the future of tobacco control which looked at the components for a new comprehensive strategy for tobacco. All three measures received massive public support with around 19,000 of the 20,000 respondents supporting the measures.
In response, the Government decided to include in the Health Bill the proposals for a total ban on the display of tobacco at the point of sale and measures to restrict youth access to tobacco.
The Bill started in the House of Lords where the Government has no natural majority. The Smokefree Action Coalition campaigned to ensure that peers were aware of the importance of the tobacco control measures and an amendment to remove the tobacco control measures was defeated two to one. Other amendments were also debated at length in the House of Lords including a full ban on tobacco vending machines, plain packaging, and an offence of proxy purchasing, that is the purchasing of tobacco by an adult for a child. None were accepted at this stage although there was strong cross party support for banning tobacco vending machines and proxy purchasing.
In the House of Commons a similar array of amendments were tabled. During Report stage of the Bill the Government decided to allow a free vote on an amendment to ban tobacco vending machines. There was such strong support for this amendment from across the house that no vote was taken.
It is expected that the legislation on vending machines will come into effect in 2011 while point of sale display legislation will come into effect in 2011 for large shops and in 2013 for small shops.