The countdown to the demise of cigarettes in packs of less than 20 and rolling tobacco in pouches of less than 30g has begun in earnest.

In just five months’ time tobacco manufacturers will be required to stop producing small packs of tobacco, the Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed.

All packs manufactured from 20 May onwards will also have to feature much larger health warnings. Text warnings will read ‘Smoking kills – quit now’ and along with picture warnings, will cover  65% of the front and back of packs.

Retailers will however have a further year, until 20 May 2017, to sell through old stocks.

The legislation will also outlaw the use of certain words used to describe tobacco, such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.

Stricter controls on electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) will also come into force from May, with additional laws requiring all e-cigs not registered as medicinal devices to carry the health warning: ‘This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.’

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the introduction of the regulations alongside the implementation of the plain packaging laws, also set to come into force in May 2016, would disrupt retailers’ businesses and fuel the illicit trade. “Government must focus its attention on tackling the harmful illicit trade in tobacco through stricter border checks and better enforcement in local areas,” chief executive James Lowman said.

However, not all retailers are concerned by the new rules. Bruce Morgan owner of Brownlies in Biggar, Scotland, said he believed the ban on cigarettes in packs of less than 20 and RYO in pouches of less than 30g could potentially improve category management. “The gantries are so muddled at the moment with the vast array of 10s, 17s and 19s that I’m actually looking forward to having a minimum size as it could potentially make things easier to manage and products easier to locate, particularly when plain packaging comes into force,” he said.

A ban on cigarettes and RYO tobacco containing characterising flavours such as menthol is also being introduced from May 2020.