Shops face ban on tobacco displays
Tobacco displays in shops would be banned in Northern Ireland from next July under Department of Health proposals, it was revealed.
Retailers claim the prohibition would increase the number of smokers buying on the black market.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said more than three-quarters of adults in the province who smoke started the habit in their teens and quickly became addicted.
"This is exactly what I want to prevent through these new measures," he added.
It is proposed to introduce the regulations relating to tobacco displays in shops from July 1 next year and in vending machines from October 1 next year. The Assembly has approved the ban on the display.
Mr McGimpsey added: "Children are particularly susceptible to tobacco marketing and are more likely to take up smoking as a result of exposure to it.
"By introducing measures banning cigarette displays in shops, we are protecting our children and young people, and we are also supporting those smokers in our society who are attempting to quit."
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politicians have argued that the change should be delayed until 2013 to give retailers the time to fund changes to their premises.
According to a survey by the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance, 75% of corner shopkeepers are aware of smuggled tobacco sold in their area. Half said they knew of racketeers supplying under-age smokers.
A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation in Northern Ireland said: "Children can and do buy cigarettes from vending machines, and they are influenced by tobacco marketing - regardless of what the tobacco industry and its stooges say to the contrary. The sooner these measures are put in place, the more Northern Irish lives we can save from smoking-related illnesses like heart disease and cancer."