Retailers are united in dismay following the announcement that a tobacco display ban will go ahead despite a lack of credible evidence that concealing gantries reduces youth smoking.

News that the implementation dates are to be pushed back has also been met with scorn, with many retailers claiming that the "concession" was simply delaying the inevitable.

"I'm bitterly disappointed that the government is planning to go ahead with the ban as there is still no evidence that it reduces youth smoking, but lots that it will harm small retailers," said Buckinghamshire Spar retailer Peter Sichel.

"Bans are not the answer. Education for children and their parents, who are often the main sources of supply, is," he added.

Newsagents said that they felt "let down" by ministers' broken promises. "This is a government which makes great claims about being pro-small business, yet has failed to deliver on these promises," NFRN national president Parminder Singh said.

However, retailers gave a reluctant welcome to the news that requested display areas would be enlarged.

"While I don't believe this regulation should be going ahead at all, this small yielding will mean that retailers like me will only need to fit a simple set of sliding doors," said Ralph Patel, owner of The Look-In store, Woodmansterne, Surrey.

However, the concession would be rendered meaningless if plans for plain packaging were implemented.

"I'm deeply concerned about the implications of plain packaging," said independent retailer Debbie Corris of Jim Ingram's stores in Whitstable, Kent. "I sell more than 300 different tobacco products and it would be a nightmare if they all looked the same."