LONDON -- Tobacco was banned from display in shops in England as the latest anti-smoking law came into effect Friday, The Sun reports.
The new rules mean all cigarettes and tobacco products will be kept hidden behind screens or under the counter in large grocery stores and supermarkets. Smaller shops will follow suit in 2015, allowing them more time to refit shelves and cabinets.
The changes are the latest in a long line of legislative measures aimed at reducing smoking rates. Smoking causes around 80,000 preventable deaths each year and costs the UK's National Health Service $8 billion annually.
Anti-smoking campaigners argue that displays became increasingly colorful and appealing as other forms of tobacco advertising were closed down. The UK government hopes the move will discourage young people from taking up the habit and encourage established smokers to quit.
"We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colorful, eye-catching cigarette displays. Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers, and we need to stop this trend," health minister Anne Milton said.
She added, "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 currently trying to quit."
Robin Hewings, from Cancer Research UK, said, "We have good research to show that when you remove tobacco displays in shops, then it reduces the overall visibility of it in people's lives.
The way they're sold at the moment, like razor blades or batteries or [potato chips], makes them seem like normal everyday products, when really they are not. They are a very dangerous drug."
More than eight million people smoke in England, and opponents of the ban say it is unlikely to be a case of "out of sight, out of mind."
Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, said, "There is no justification for a display ban. There are tens of millions of people in Britain today who have never smoked and have never been encouraged to smoke by the sight of a packet of cigarettes in a shop or anywhere else. After some initial confusion, existing smokers will ask for their regular brand and carry on smoking."
It is likely similar measures will eventually be introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.