Smoking is front-line news again this week across the UK, following Scotland’s decision to ban tobacco displays and health secretary Andy Burnham’s plans to reduce the number of smokers by half.

Members of the Scottish Parliament have voted to introduce a ban on tobacco displays in small shops from 2013, and two years earlier in larger stores, by a margin of 103 votes to 14.

The arguments about why a display ban is hugely unnecessary and what it will do to small shops have been flying around for a while now. Indeed, as Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said following the announcement of the Scottish vote: “The fact is, the evidence base does not exist to support this ban.”

Despite some fearsome lobbying by the industry, only Conservative MSPs voted against the introduction of the ban. One of the key claims by the Scottish Government that may have affected the vote was that the tobacco industry would pay for the costs incurred by shops to change their gantries – something strenuously denied by the tobacco industry in relation to the ban in England, and something that evidence showed only large businesses benefitted from when the ban was introduced in Ireland.

Meanwhile down in England, Mr Burnham was unveiling his plans to reduce the amount of smokers to one-in-ten, down from its current level of just over 20 per cent, or one in five people. His plans include an extension of the smoking ban in public places to include the doorways of public buildings, and mention of ‘working with the public sector to communicate the dangers of smoking in the home and the car’.

Those who warned the UK to look out following the announcement by the Finnish government earlier this month that it intends to get rid of smoking totally won’t be surprised by this announcement. Despite Mr Burnham’s protestations to the contrary, this could be the nanny state coming home to roost at last…