The UK Supreme Court has ruled against tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco in a case concerning the legality of a ban on display cases for cigarettes in shops and supermarkets in Scotland.
Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco, producer of Davidoff, John Player Special and Lambert & Butler brands, has failed on two occasions to block the move in Scottish Courts, eventually being forced to take their appeal to the highest court in the UK.
Yesterday the panel of five Supreme Court judges delivered their unanimous verdict, finding against the tobacco company. The ban on display cases in Scotland, brought in by an Act of the Scottish Parliament two years ago, will stand.
The changes were brought in by the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which also brought in a ban on cigarette vending machines and introduced a £200 fine for Scottish vendors caught selling cigarettes to under-18s.
The tobacco company unsuccessfully claimed that a ban on display cases was beyond the remit of the parliament at Holyrood, arguing that matters concerning sales supply and product safety were reserved for the parliament at Westminster.
However, the Supreme Court rejected the argument, saying the laws were not outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
The legal challenge has delayed the implementation of the ban on display cases in major supermarkets, which had been timetabled to come into force in October 2011 and was then delayed further to April 2012.
Now the legal challenge is over, the Scottish Parliament can implement a plan to roll the policy out.
Targeting small vendors
The new batch of anti-smoking policies have been criticised as disproportionately affecting small shop owners and vending machine manufacturers and businesses. However, the courts have previously ruled that the protection of public health fully justifies the new restrictions.
Politicians from all sides have supported the need for the policy; Lesley Griffiths is the Health Minister for Wales.
"Smoking remains a huge risk to public health in Wales. Around 20% of our NHS admissions are related to smoking, at a cost of more than £1m a day," she said.
Bans around the UK
A ban on selling cigarettes from vending machines, included in the Health Act 2009, has been in place in England since 1 October 2011. The same Act also includes a ban on cigarette displays in shops in England. Large stores were banned from displaying cigarettes from 6 April 2012, with smaller shops given until the same date in 2015 to comply.
The new laws will be enforced by Trading Standards officers.
The Welsh also have a ban on tobacco displays in place. Large stores and supermarkets have been prohibited from displaying cigarettes from 3 December 2012. A vending machine ban came into force in Wales on 1 February 2012.
In Northern Ireland a ban on displays in large stores came into force on 31 October 2012 and a ban on cigarette vending machines commenced on 1 March 2012.
Scotland tobacco display ban to be delayed (BBC News)