Retailers, trade bodies, and manufacturers have reacted angrily to the news that the government intends to push through a ban on the display of tobacco products, despite extensive opposition and scant evidence that the move would reduce youth smoking.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the decision would impose huge costs and major disruption to tens of thousands of retailers.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Implementing a tobacco display ban will cost our industry over £250m. This announcement makes a mockery of government claims to be the friend of small and local businesses.”

The Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) also reacted angrily the news. The coalition of independent retailers said that banning the open display of tobacco would hit convenience stores the hardest because shoppers would buy more tobacco products from supermarkets. 

Ken Patel, an independent retailer from Leicester and national spokesman for the TRA, said: “Make no mistake, this has little to do with youth smoking. If the government were serious about that, they would make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco for minors, as we shopkeepers have campaigned for. This display ban is nothing more than a gimmick so the government can get a few headlines. There is no evidence to suggest this would work - it is an experiment at the expense of our businesses.”

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) said the move would also fuel the trade in counterfeit and smuggled tobacco. National president Naresh Purohit said: “Our members are responsible retailers who support legislation that will have a positive impact to the health of the customers they serve. However, we are concerned that the proposed display ban will do little more than encourage counterfeit tobacco trading and reduce customer confidence.”

The organisation’s fears were echoed by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA). Chief executive Chris Ogden said: “A ban on the display of products will blur the distinction between the legal and illegal market by virtue of it all being ‘out of sight’ and will play into the hands of criminals trying to infiltrate the retail network. 

“There are more effective alternatives to prevent under 18s from accessing cigarettes. Proof of age schemes should be better supported, the law on underage sales more strongly enforced and the government should crack down on the illegal trade in tobacco,” he added.