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Plans to tackle underage smoking

Health secretary Alan Johnson is to give the go-ahead to moves that will force cigarette sales "under the counter", in a bid to tackle the problem of underage smoking.

Business secretary, Peter Mandelson, was one of the outspoken opponents to the scheme, as he claimed that a ban on prominent displays of tobacco products would further affect recession-hit shops.

Despite its nonappearance in last week's Queen's Speech package of legislation for the forthcoming Parliamentary session, Mr Johnson will give the plan the green light.

He insists that no retailers have been forced to close by similar policies abroad – where underage smoking rates have been cut by as much as 10%.

The legislation plans caused a row within the Cabinet, with the Tories claiming that there is no evidence a ban would cut smoking rates and could "destroy local corner shops and newsagents that are already suffering now".

The health secretary will also look to ban or age-proof vending machines, which are believed to be the main source of cigarettes for underage smokers.

Officials pointed out that an "overwhelming majority" of responses to a consultation on how to protect such young people from smoking backed the ban.

A "fully inclusive" implementation package will be given to all businesses across the UK to deal with the impact of the new legislation, Mr Johnson added.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Department of Health

Do you agree with these proposals? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Alan Johnson said, 'This is primarily about children: 11- to
15-year-olds. Advertising has been removed from television, film and newspapers. The only point now where there is advertising is point-of-sale.' This statement is not true. The main cause of children starting to smoke is actors smoking in films and TV. The majority of films advertise or promote smoking." - Stuart Holmes