Smoking should no longer be considered an acceptable part of normal life, the Health Secretary has declared, as a ban on tobacco promotion comes into force. From this weekend all large shops and supermarkets in England must hide cigarettes and tobacco products from public view.
"It's about supporting smokers who want to give up," Andrew Lansley said yesterday, adding: "We no longer see smoking as a part of life."
He dismissed the suggestion that smoking could become more attractive to young people if it is kept hidden and insisted the key issue was about "shifting the culture".
"The culture is about moving to a place where tobacco and smoking isn't part of normal life: people don't encounter it normally, they don't see it in their big supermarkets, they don't see people smoking in public places, they don't see tobacco vending machines," he added.
"We are going to continue to try to act against smoking for the simple reason that most smokers want to quit and it is the biggest avoidable cause of early mortality."
He added: "There's more than a third of smokers who say they want to stop. Each year we have nearly 800,000 smokers who try to quit, 50 per cent succeed. We want to continue to increase that proportion, help more people to stop."
The Independent revealed in September how Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, was seeking to force a British university to reveal full details of its research involving confidential interviews with thousands of children aged between 11 and 16 about their attitudes towards smoking and cigarette packaging.
Health Minister Anne Milton said: "We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching, cigarette displays. Most adult smokers started as teenagers and we need to stop this trend.
"Banning displays of cigarettes and tobacco will help young people resist the pressure to start smoking and help the thousands of adults in England who are trying to quit."
Jean King, from Cancer Research UK, told the programme: "We want everything we can possibly do to make cigarettes unavailable and inaccessible."