Last Tuesday, the Department of Health posted a press release on its website entitled “The end of open tobacco displays: five months to go”.

Within the eight short paragraphs, public health minister Jane Ellison states: “With only five months to go before the legislation applies to all shops selling tobacco, I strongly encourage retailers to start preparing for the changes now.” The release closes: “For more information, retailers can contact their trade body or the trading standards department at their local authority.”

RN put this recommendation to the test and contacted 12 local councils to find out how they are advising retailers. The results are mixed.

At one end of the scale, Croydon says every store has been visited and it has trained more than 200 retailers on the new law. At the other, Cornwall says it expects retailers to get information from the trade press. In the middle, Westminster says it will send out information next year.

The release is one of the government’s first display ban communications to retailers. The fact it abdicates responsibility to trade bodies, manufacturers and the press without any guidance or advice is astounding.

If the government wants to legislate on tobacco, it must be clear who is responsible for ensuring retail compliance. If the responsibility falls with local authorities, will they get extra funding or will it come at the expense of other valuable work they are doing to tackle illicit tobacco sales?

RN contacted 12 local councils to find out how they are advising retailers on the display ban. The results are mixed

If this slapdash effort is how the government is implementing the biggest law change tobacco retailers have ever faced, I fear for how any future legislation might be handled.

No matter how lacking in support the approach of local and national government is, RN readers can rest assured our journalists will help you prepare every step of the way.

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