News & Comment

Imperial loses appeal against vending machine ban

Sat 18th June, 2011

The UK Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal over legislation to ban sales of tobacco from vending machines in the UK.

The ruling upholds a decision by the High Court in December 2010 to reject a legal challenge by Imperial Tobacco's cigarette vending machine subsidiary Sinclair Collis.

Two of the three Court of Appeal judges agreed that the High Court's decision should be upheld. The view of the third judge was that a ban on tobacco vending sales was disproportionate.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, admitted the DoH's arguments were "not very convincing" but said tobacco's health risks meant courts should not interfere with Government restrictions.

He added that given the health risks posed by tobacco, "virtually any measure which a government takes to restrict the availability of tobacco products, especially to young people, is almost self-evidently one with which no court should interfere".

Although statistics used by the DoH to justify the ban were "little more than guesses", Lord Neuberger said they did "not appear fanciful" and the ban was "lawful" and "proportionate".

Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, said: "For years vending machines have been an easy source of cigarettes for children. The British Heart Foundation filmed kids of 14 undercover in pubs and on every occasion they were able to buy cigs unchallenged.

"Adults rarely use machines because they are expensive. Less than one per cent of sales are from machines, so the economic impact will be tiny. The health benefit is considerable."

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: "The vending machine ban is grossly disproportionate and not based on sound evidence. The overwhelming majority of machines are inaccessible to under-18s.

"Government policy seems to be about putting cigs out of sight in the hope smoking rates will fall. In fact, the more you put cigs under the counter and ban vending machines, the more you create an allure which people find desirable."

Sources: Imperial Tobacco (17 June 2011), The SunDaily Mail (18 June 2011)

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