A Department of Health (DoH) impact assessment states that the ruling would allow screens, curtains or slatted plastic covers to be attached to an existing gantry, rather than forcing retailers to put tobacco products under the counter.
And a DoH representative also told retailers at the Association of Convenience Stores' (ACS) Responsible Retailing Forum that they could place signs outside their stores to announce they sold tobacco, and a list of brands and prices would be permitted at the point of sale.
Retailers believe the measures demonstrate waning enthusiasm for the ban among policy-makers, although the proposed methods would still involve additional costs and disruption. Independent retailer Ken Patel said the softening stance proved that the government had not thought hard enough about the legislation's impact on small shops, and urged retailers to continue to fight the ban.
"It has not anticipated the vast levels of opposition and so now it is backtracking by saying it won't be overly prescriptive," he said. "This research should have been done in the first place, and we still do not believe that there is any compelling evidence that a ban on display would reduce youth smoking rates."
ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan remained strongly opposed to any kind of display restriction. "We remain unconvinced that there is a low- cost solution to this problem that does not put an unnecessary burden on retailers," he said.