l shops found themselves scrambling to ensure their tobacco products were out of sight yesterday after legislation on the display of cigarettes finally caught up with them.
Despite large stores and supermarkets being obliged to hide their cigarette display counters since 2012, small shops had been spared the aggravation due to costs and potential loss of trade. But from yesterday a three-year grace period expired, meaning all stores with a floor area of less than 280 square metres could also face a £5,000 fine if they breached the rules.
Shop managers and owners who are found persistently to flout the law could also face six months’ imprisonment if found guilty at a magistrates’ court. A conviction at a crown court carries up to two years in jail.
A spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance, said: “The introduction of the display ban into larger shops hasn’t even been evaluated, so how do we know it will work in smaller shops? Of course, retailers will need to comply with the law, but this is a further unnecessary measure that will hit small businesses.
“Coming on top of plain packaging, it is an unnecessary burden on shops already struggling with red tape.”