The campaign to make the proxy purchasing of tobacco a criminal offence gained momentum this week after the Conservative Party revealed it will table an amendment to the Health Bill this week.

Joining the debate at the Bill's Second Reading earlier this week, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the party would do everything in its power to reduce smoking rates amongst young people. "That is why we will be putting forward proposals to outlaw proxy purchases of cigarettes by adults for young people," he said.

The news was welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores. Public affairs director Shane Brennan said: "Retailers feel strongly that the law on underage smoking is disproportionate, and until the government makes it illegal for adults to buy tobacco for children it is sanctioning the most likely way young people start smoking."

The Conservative Party is also expected to table a second crucial amendment to remove the tobacco display ban proposal from the Bill, which is now in committee stage being subjected to a line-by-line examination. This stage is likely to reveal the difficulties of compliance.

Brennan added: "We have to keep fighting. Our team have been camped in Parliament talking to MPs, and hundreds of letters have been sent by retailers. Our view is that the evidence of health benefit from a display ban is inconclusive at best, while the evidence of cost burdens on retailers is clear."

Unfortunately for retailers, the voting record of Andy Burnham - promoted to Health Secretary in the recent reshuffle - reveals him to be a strong supporter of smoking regulation.

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