An unexpected delay in the passage of the Health Bill through parliament has given tobacco retailers a chance to show their MPs in person how the proposed display ban would affect them.

A lack of parliamentary time has meant that the final reading of the Bill will now not take place until October, giving retailers and trade associations 12 weeks to convince the Department of Health and MPs that other measures would be more effective at reducing youth smoking.

"Retailers now have the summer to get MPs to visit their shops and show them the disruption this law would cause," said Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) public affairs director Shane Brennan. The delay would also allow ministers to re-assess the situation with fresh eyes in October, he added.

Representatives from the ACS and National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) are due to meet with the new public health minister Gillian Merron in the next few weeks, where they will call for better education and a ban on proxy purchasing, rather than costly restrictions on tobacco display.

NFRN national president Suleman Khonat said: "During the summer recess I would urge all members to visit their MPs and make it clear that hiding tobacco out of sight will not prevent adults from buying tobacco for minors and will not prevent youngsters from buying from black market sources. The best way to reduce youth smoking is through education."

In a letter to Convenience Store, Merron said there was "strong evidence" that removing tobacco displays would help to reduce

the number of young people starting to smoke.

"We do not want the costs of compliance to be high, and we are working with representatives of the retail sector to draft regulations that will allow low-cost solutions to be developed," she said.

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