Shopkeepers could be banned from displaying cigarettes under plans being considered by the Government. The Department of Health said it is launching a consultation later this spring to look at ways to stop children smoking.
In a bid to cut the number of smokers and prevent children from taking up the habit, ministers have drawn up proposals including a bar on displaying tobacco products and the removal of vending machines from pubs. Measures that make it easier to sell nicotine replacement gums and patches are also on the table.
The proposals follow on from the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places last July. According to the Department of Health, the strategy - coupled with the wider smokefree legislation - will save hundreds of lives. Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late twenties, the department said.
Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Children who smoke are putting their lives at risk and are more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking later.
"It's vital we get across the message to children that smoking is bad. If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that."
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of adults who now smoke has dropped by 2% from 24% to 22%. Around 165,000 smokers quit between April and September last year - an increase of 28% compared with the same period the previous year. The Government has set a target of reducing the proportion of smokers in England to 21% by 2010.
In this year's Budget, Chancellor Alistair Darling increased the duty on tobacco, adding 11p to the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes and 4p to the price of five cigars. He also said the Government was continuing the 5% reduced rate of VAT on smoking cessation products beyond June 30.Reuse content