The ban on the display of tobacco products will be the "most disruptive and costly" in the world, say retailers' representatives, with smaller independent stores carrying the heaviest burden.
The ban was approved after government whips instructed Labour MPs to vote against an opposition attempt to remove it from the Health Bill, which received its final reading in the Commons yesterday.
A consultation paper released hours before the vote lays out proposals for the implementation of the ban and what retailers would have to do to comply. In it the Government will require retailers to fit doors or flaps that only allow an area slightly larger than a sheet of A3 paper to be seen by a customer when they are being served tobacco.
According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), this would mean that a typical small shop would be required to fit at least 20 separate doors or flaps to their existing unit.
ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “The Minister has proposed regulations that are the most inflexible of their type anywhere in the world. It makes a mockery of the repeated reassurances that Ministers have made to Parliament and businesses that they will take a light touch approach to compliance.
“The technical challenges in fitting a solution to existing units that meet the Ministers’ demands could be insurmountable. This would mean retailers having to rip out and replace existing units and the costs will be far higher than previously suggested.”
Retailers fought to the last minute to persuade MPs to reject the display ban. They explained that the move would impose costs on them despite there being no evidence to suggest that it would be effective in reducing youth smoking.
Lowman said: “We remain convinced that if MPs were presented with credible alternatives to this measure such as proper deterrents to those that are complicit in giving tobacco to children and effective measures to tackle the illegal trade in communities, they would agree that the display ban is unnecessary."
Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), added: “This ban is unnecessary and unjustified. It is also unwanted by a significant number of politicians from all parties and by the retailers whose businesses will be adversely affected to no purpose."