Cigarette vending machines, a common sight in many English pubs, have been banned by the Department of Health.

According to the Department of Health, the move has been made to “prevent under-age sales to children and to support adults who are trying to quit.” The ban came into effect last weekend. As part of the ban, it will no longer be legal to sell cigarettes in vending machines in restaurants, clubs or pubs. Any proprietor doing so will be subject to a £2,500 fine. The ban also covers cigarette adverts being displayed on vending machines, with failure to comply earning a prison sentence of up to six months and a £5,000 fine. It will still be possible for pubs to sell cigarettes but they will only be available from behind the counter. This allows the seller to check identification of the buyer to ensure they are over the age of 18.

The measure have been taken despite the relatively low amounts of sales from cigarette vending machines, which actually account for less than 1% of total cigarette sales, because the age group of 11 to 15 year olds are far more likely to use these vending machines than any other group. This is because the machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for underage smokers to buy cigarettes without being challenged.

Many health campaigners approved the ban, but it was not well-received by some pub owners, who are concerned that it could exacerbate the negative affect brought on by the smoking ban, which was introduced in 2007.