The government’s consultation on tobacco control has come under renewed attack after it emerged that the majority of responses came from taxpayer-funded health bodies.

A total of 96,515 cards, e-mails and documents were received by the consultation group. Of these, 49,507 (51%) came from SmokeFree North West and 8,128 (8.4%) from SmokeFree North East, both publicly-funded anti-smoking groups. A further 10,757 (11.1%) came from D-MYST, the youth wing of SmokeFree Liverpool. The majority of submissions were pro forma postcards or e-mails.

Each of these entries was counted separately, whereas submissions from trade associations such as ACS, which represents 33,000 stores, were counted as single responses. Around 11,000 retailers also responded individually.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced last month that the display of tobacco products will be banned from 2013 for small stores and 2011 for supermarkets. In his statement, he said that responses to the consultation “overwhelmingly supported” removing tobacco displays from shops.

Smokers’ lobby group Forest director Simon Clark slammed the consultation process as “a joke”. He commented: “This wasn’t a public consultation, it was a public sector consultation. Most of the groups that responded are publicly funded and many of the respondents are public sector employees.”