Staff at the Department of Health (DoH) got a rude awakening on Monday morning when a group of angry independent retailers hand-delivered more than 7,000 postcards in protest against Government plans to ban the display of tobacco products in shops.

The retailers, all members of the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance, also delivered a petition with a further 2000 names in opposition to the display ban.

Ken Patel, national spokesman for the Alliance, which designed the protest postcards, said: “All retailers are against these plans because we know that it would not stop youth smoking, just as it has failed to do in Canada and Iceland.”

He added that such a move would be “terribly damaging to small shops”.

“Because of this we are asking the Government to look at alternative measures which would have a positive impact on rates of youth smoking and to work with responsible retailers on this, rather than against us.”

The protest postcards, which were signed by retailers from across the country, called instead for new powers to make proxy purchasing a criminal offence, and a crackdown on black market tobacco sales.

The consultation into Tobacco Control is now closed and the Government has three months in which to examine the thousands of responses it has received.