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Pubs ready to ditch cigarette machines

Two thirds of pub landlords in Northern Ireland would rather ditch their cigarette machines than enforce tough proposed laws on preventing children using them, new research found today.

Requirements for bar staff to ID check every young person wanting to access them would be impossible during busy times, according to a survey of licensees in the region.

The study by the British Heart Foundation NI comes ahead of next week's Westminster debate on the measures, which are contained in the UK Health Bill.

Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey is expected to introduce the provisions of the bill in Northern Ireland if it is passed.

However, the BHF want him to go further and ban the machines altogether.

The charity says the results of its surveys show that the health conscious move would not have an adverse impact on the pub trade, with four out of five landlords claiming the revenue from the automated devices doesn't amount to much.

Jayne Murray, Public Affairs & Communications Manager at BHF NI said: "The UK Government's proposals outlined in the Bill are unworkable and unrealistic.

"The message from the pub industry is loud and clear, they can't make these proposals work and the loose change they make from these machines isn't worth the hassle of keeping them.

"The only people with a real interest in vending machines are the tobacco industry. Every year young people start a lifetime's addiction to cigarettes by buying them from a vending machine. Both the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly needs to be braver and put the interests of children ahead of a commercial lobby."

BHF estimates that around 850 regular smokers aged between 11 and 15 access cigarettes from vending machines in Northern Ireland.

Ms Murray added: "We don't allow other age restricted products like alcohol, fireworks or knives to be sold from vending machines. These are only sold where there is a face to face transaction over the counter.

"Smoking is one of the biggest avoidable causes of death and disease in the country. Yet we continue to allow vending machines which undermine the restrictions already in place, and allow children to pick up an addiction they take into adulthood."

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