Together we will beat cancer

A tobaccoo 'powerwall'

"Powerwalls" help market cigarettes

Cancer Research UK and our supporters have long called for an end to ‘tobacco powerwalls’ in shops.

The large brightly lit displays act like big adverts for tobacco brands and, placed next to the sweets and crisps in shops, tobacco displays make smoking seem like a normal, everyday activity.

Smoking’s an addiction that’s encouraged by tobacco companies’ marketing, which is designed to hook more people and keep current smokers hooked.  Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world, and accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths.

MPs voted to ban these displays last year, but the new Government has yet to implement this decision. We need your help to persuade them to act.

Your help is especially urgent given that, a week ago, several newspapers reported that the Government was planning to “water down” the legislation banning tobacco display ads. “Big Tobacco and small traders unite to fight ban on cigarette displays”, claimed the Observer, while the Sunday Times went with the headline “Law to curb smoking eased” (needs subscription).

These reports are worrying, as is the amount of effort the tobacco industry has spent lobbying on this issue.

In response to this, we jointly wrote a letter to the Sunday Times, together with ASH, the British Heart Foundation, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and the British Medical association, which was published yesterday:

Plans to “water down” measures to end tobacco displays in shops would be a big blow to Andrew Lansley’s plan to relieve pressure on the health budget by stopping people getting ill in the first place. Tobacco is the biggest cause of preventable death, killing 100,000 people a year. With the end of most cigarette advertising, and the introduction of the smoking ban, smoking rates among 11- to 15-year-olds have halved since the mid-1990s.

But cigarettes continue to be temptingly displayed along with sweets and crisps. Ireland stopped such displays a year ago and research has found far fewer Irish children now think smoking is common among their peers. They also think it is harder to buy cigarettes today. Irish tobacconists found it cost the equivalent of a few hundred euros to convert each shop, and the tobacco manufacturers often paid.

The tobacco industry claims cigarette displays prevent smuggling, but covering displays made no difference to the long-term smuggling trends in Ireland. The truth is, these displays advertise deadly products and help recruit teenage smokers.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive, Cancer Research UK
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman, British Medical Association
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
Peter Hollins, chief executive, British Heart Foundation

In a separate move, a group of academics have also written to the Observer, echoing our views.

The fate of the display ban now hangs in the balance – so the more MPs hear from our supporters, the more likely they are to take the decision that prioritises the nation’s health.

Find out how you can persuade the government to act by visiting our Cancer Campaigns website.



Dave Atherton November 17, 2010

I do not have the time at the moment but will post papers that show there was no statistical significant change in youth smoking after tobacco display bans were enacted in Iceland or the provinces in Canada.

However here are the Icelandic figures

Regular smokers aged 15-21.

2000 14.4%
2001 17.5% display ban
2002 17.9%
2003 16.9%
2004 17.4%
2005 15.7%
2006 12.2%
2007 15.2%

Never smoked.

1999 69.3%
2001 70.0% display ban
2002 70.6%
2003 65.8%
2004 72.6%
2005 69.7%
2006 67.7%
2007 69.3%

Dave Atherton November 17, 2010

As reported in the Toronto Golbal Post 4/12/09

“Cigarette smuggling rises in Canada”

“The black market in cigarettes is believed to be a $1.5 billion industry in Canada. The Ontario government estimates that half of all cigarettes sold in the province are illegal. In neighboring Quebec, that number is 40 percent. Contraband smokes cost the federal and provincial governments more than $2 billion in lost taxes.”

Dave Atherton November 17, 2010


I suppose next thing you are going to say is that smoking is down in the UK. According to the European Union, so it *must* be right smoking prevelance is unchanged at 28% of the adult populcation from 2007 to 2010.

Robin Hewings November 17, 2010


It’s been interesting to read your comments. As you will have read in the letter, the case for removing tobacco displays is about their effect on children as a form of tobacco marketing rather than having an immediate impact on overall adult smoking rates. However, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that the official data from the Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland shows that smoking is falling and is at an historic low.

There is no evidence of any relationship between removing tobacco displays and tobacco smuggling. As we explain in our briefing, whether smuggling succeeds or fails depends on the effectiveness of law enforcement. An interesting example of this is Canada where all provinces no longer have tobacco ‘powerwalls’. Philip Morris International, in their second quarter results for 2010 said: “In Canada, the total tax-paid cigarette market was up by 20.0%, mainly reflecting stronger government enforcement measures to reduce contraband sales.” To be clear: powerwalls are irrelevant to smuggling.

Robin Hewings
Policy Manager (Tobacco Control)
Cancer Research UK

Dave Atherton November 16, 2010

@Dr Rosemary Gillespie

I will pose this question to you again. Does the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation claim he died from inhaling tobacco smoke passively?

If so could you explain the aetiology of how it happened?

Dave Atherton November 16, 2010

Coupled with the high taxation the tobacco display ban has given an extra injection the the black market.

“Monday October 11 2010

ILLEGAL cigarette dealers are now selling their smuggled goods door-to-door in housing estates.

In some areas the sellers are delivering flyers in housing estates with “price lists” for the illegally branded cigarettes and a mobile telephone number to contact to make a purchase, according to a lobby group set up to fight the black market for tobacco.

Prices advertised vary from €40 for 200 ‘John Player Blue’ to €28 for 200 ‘Gold Classic’.

A flyer found in Clara, Co Offaly, claimed to offer the “cheapest fags in Ireland”, with 200 ‘John Player Blue’ available for €37.”

Dave Atherton November 16, 2010

The smoking ban has been in place for nearly 7 years and Ireland’s tobacco display ban for a year, what has been the effect on consumption?

“Adult smoking in Ireland has since the smoking ban in pubs in 2004 and the display ban has risen from 29% to 33% of the population.

“A survey of 4,082 people this summer revealed that 33pc of the Irish population had taken up or continued to smoke.

It is the highest smoking rate recorded here in the past 11 years, according to the EU’s ‘HELP — For A Life Without Tobacco’ campaign.

Despite hikes in tobacco tax, the smoking ban and a new law against the public display of cigarettes for sale, the number of smokers has steadily risen since 2007 when 29pc of the population smoked.”

Charles November 15, 2010

Should we hide all products that could harm our health?