Imperial Tobacco, the UK’s leading cigarette manufacturer, said today that it was seeking a judicial review of the Government’s plan to ban cigarette vending machines from next year.
MPs and the Lords recently voted in favour of a backbench amendment to outlaw cigarette vending machines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as part of the Government’s Health Bill — which has now become law.
It means that, from October 2011, cigarette vending machines — which account for about 1 per cent of all UK cigarette sales — will be outlawed. Similar measures have also been supported by the Scottish Parliament.
The vending machine ban was proposed by Ian McCartney, a former Labour minister, who claims that the machines give young children access to cigarettes.
But Gareth Davis, Imperial’s chief executive, said: “Legal action is always a last resort but the Government’s decision to ban cigarette vending machines is so disproportionate and unnecessary that it must be challenged.
“We do not want children to smoke and supported the Government’s proposal to stop underage access through the introduction of electronic ID cards, token mechanisms and remote control technology.
“These are effective solutions which have been implemented in a number of other countries and it is a matter of great regret that the UK Government ultimately chose to disregard all of these options in favour of a ban that will result in significant job losses in the vending industry.”
The judicial review has been sought by Sinclair Collis, the cigarette vending machine subsidiary of Imps, which is based in Wolverhampton and employs 174 people.
Simon Evans, Imperial’s spokesman, said that the cigarette vending machine market in Britain was already under severe pressure from the ban, introduced two years ago, on smoking in public places. He said that much of the business had instead gone to garage forecourts and corner shops as consumers chose to stay and smoke at home instead of doing so in pubs.
Also included in the 2009 Health Act is a ban on the retail display of tobacco products and a requirement for them to be sold instead from under the counter. The measure was firecely opposed not only by the tobacco industry but also by small shopkeepers who rely on tobacco sales to entice customers into their stores. Retail industry bodies have warned that up to three-quarters of corner shops could close if the ban goes ahead.
Shares of Imperial, whose best cigarettes brands include Lambert & Butlers — Britain’s best-selling cigarette — Embassy and Regals, were down 19p at £20.19 in mid-afternoon.
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