Health campaigners have been blasted for adding e-cigarettes to a blacklist of unhealthy items that they want removed from checkouts.

  • Stores to be “nudged” towards health

  • Retailers warn of increased theft risk

The call to ban the positioning of e-cigarettes next to all checkouts was made in the ‘Health on the High Street’ report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). Manufacturers described the call
as “unfair”, while retailers warned that the measure could lead to an increase in shop theft.

The RSPH said that placing e-cigs next to checkouts may widen the appeal of the product to non-smokers, young people and children. The call to ban e-cigs from the till was made alongside a renewed demand to outlaw “unhealthy food items” from till points as part of its strategy to “nudge businesses to adopt health-promoting activities”.

E-cigarette manufacturers said the RSPH’s call for a checkout display ban would be logistically unrealistic for those stores with limited shelf space.

“If we hide away any products that might be considered even slightly harmful to health, sooner or later the shelves will be completely bare,” said Mark Smith, managing director of e-cig makers 7Stripe. “We have to trust adults to make their own, properly informed, decisions.”

Jacob Fuller, chief executive for Blu e-cigs, added: “Independent retailers have limited secure space, particularly for high value, popular products such as e-cigs. Placing them on the counter in suitable merchandising units ensures that staff can control access to these products, while keeping them out of reach for children.”

Convenience retailers also voiced their concerns. Vip Panchmatia of Wharf Convenience Store in Stroud said his sales would fall if e-cigs were moved, and warned that it would cause security concerns because of the high value of the products. “If they were moved to somewhere else in the store shoplifting will become a big issue,” he said.

Nimish Ashar, who runs Newsmarket in Rainham, Kent, added: “Rearranging a shop is never easy and we wouldn’t be able to put it in an easy access area, along with alcohol, as we’d want to minimise the risk of theft.”