Tobacco display ban set for spring
A ban on displaying cigarettes in shops will not begin until next spring at the earliest, the health minister has said.
Edwin Poots wants to introduce regulations barring the tobacco products from view in stores and scrapping vending machines.
Mr Poots said: "Despite all the available evidence on the harm caused by smoking, hundreds of children and young people are still taking up this life-limiting habit each year. By removing displays of tobacco products from view in shops, and preventing children from accessing them through vending machines, we are building upon measures already in place aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking."
Shop owners have highlighted the time it will take them to be ready for the new legislation. There are also legal challenges to the equivalent regulations in England.
Mr Poots said the ban will not commence in Northern Ireland until next spring at the earliest. Vending machine sales should end from February 1 next year.
In March 2009 the Assembly approved the ban on the display of tobacco items in shops in Northern Ireland. Then health minister Michael McGimpsey wanted to introduce the prohibition in 2010 but the DUP argued for a delay to 2013 to give retailers time to fund changes to their premises.
Following delays caused by ongoing legal action, England and Scotland are now proposing an introduction date of April 6 2012 for large stores and April 6 2015 for small stores. Wales has yet to announce a new date. The Republic of Ireland introduced a display ban and further restrictions on underage access to vending machines from July 1 2009.
The latest survey results available show that almost 9% of 11 to 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland are regular smokers.