So there you have it. It's not peer group pressure that starts young people smoking, not parents, not irresponsible adults, not easy access to vending machines nor the vast network of sellers of smuggled, counterfeited and stolen tobacco on street corners and car boot sales. It's shopkeepers, apparently, that are entirely to blame.

There is no other logical explanation for why the government is going ahead with a display ban while it rules out making proxy purchasing of tobacco an offence and offers no new resources to tackle the illicit trade.

In delaying the ban until 2013 for small stores, the government has at least accepted that the restriction will have a negative impact on retailers, although it also betrays a lack of confidence that the measures will have any effect on smoking levels. After all, if you really believe that the ban will save lives, why not impose it immediately?

The fact is, the people who make cigarettes will continue to make them, and the people who smoke will continue to smoke them. The only purpose of the display ban is to make life more difficult for retailers.

There's nothing new about that, of course, and when the time comes - or, bearing in mind that there will be an election before 2013, perhaps that should be if the time comes - nimble and experienced retailers will find a way to make the best of it, just as they will make the best of the more immediate challenges posed by the current economic climate. But the display ban is still against natural justice, and it's a really annoying way to start 2009.