Sweeping new proposals to restrict the display of tobacco products, remove branding and logos from cigarette packets, and outlaw packs of 10 have been unveiled by the government.
The controversial proposals form part of a new three-month consultation by the Department of Health on how to prevent young people from smoking.
"Protecting children from smoking is a government priority, and taking away temptation is one way to do this," said public health minister Dawn Primarolo. "The number of smokers is declining, but we must do more if we are to continue to tackle a public health issue that kills 10 times more people a year in England than road traffic accidents."
Retailers and small shops groups said the proposals would cost millions and do nothing to reduce smoking rates in Britain.
A recent opinion poll by Populus revealed that 94% of the public believed that the primary reason for under-18s starting to smoke was the influence of friends and family.
Ken Patel, a newsagent from Leicester and national spokesman for the Tobacco Alliance, said: "The survey results prove what we retailers have been saying all along - seeing tobacco on display in a shop is not a significant cause of youth smoking, and banning it will not solve the problem."
Imperial Tobacco general manager Peter Richards added: "Stricter enforcement of the current age laws coupled with more resources for Trading Standards to tackle illegal selling is the answer. This should be the key priority, rather than to burden those retailers who sell a legitimate product with anti-competitive proposals."
The government consultation is expected to run until September and retailers are urged to get involved and tell their local MPs how such measures would affect their businesses.