Tobacco sales law change campaign ‘inadequate’

Retailers have slammed the Government for a “woefully inadequate” publicity campaign to inform people about the change in the legal age limit to buy tobacco products.

The Association of Convenience Stores spokesman, Shane Brennan says: “We are very critical of the way the communications have been handled. We did a poll that showed over a third of 16 to 18-year-olds were totally unaware of the age change. That level of unawareness is a real risk to retailers.”

British Retail consortium director general Kevin Hawkins has also expressed his concern that the lack of awareness has made retail stores potential flashpoints.

The change in law, raising the age limit from 16 to 18, was introduced on October 1. The Department of Health (DoH) ran a £1m campaign that critics say concentrated on informing retailers of their responsibilities but has not done enough to inform young people of the change.

The DoH campaign, executed by communications agency Fishburn Hedges, consisted of mailers and “tool kits” for retailers, media alerts announcing the change, a dedicated website and some outdoor advertising. The only activity aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds was some online advertising during September on Bebo,, Myspace and MSN.

An insider close to the consumer campaign, which has now ceased, says: “It was very low profile.”

The DoH says: “This was a very targeted awareness campaign aimed at the primary audience of retailers and 16 and 17-year-old smokers. It is important we spend taxpayer’s money wisely.”

The ACS, which represents over 33,000 local shops, is collating information from its members regarding incidents related to the issue.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here