Retailers have renewed their call to overturn the proposed tobacco display ban as a new government-sponsored survey shows that smoking among young people is at an all-time low.

The annual NHS survey Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England in 2009 indicates that the proportion of schoolchildren aged 11-15 who have tried smoking at least once is now 29%, the lowest figure since the study began in 1982. The report also highlights a strong link between education and smoking, with pupils with no recollection of being taught about the risks of smoking more likely to be regular smokers.

Retailers contacted by C-Store supported the findings by saying there had been a noticeable reduction in young people attempting to buy tobacco products from their stores.

Ed Fox from Pollingtons in Weybridge, Surrey, summed up the response of many: “The report mirrors the findings in my own store where there has been a dramatic drop in the number of under-18s who attempt to purchase cigarettes. It’s all down to the smoking age limit being raised and better education in schools. All of my smoking customers are now in their early thirties and above. Existing tobacco control measures are clearly working.”

Arif Ahmed of Ahmed Newsagents in Coventry echoed this view. “These findings are proof of what retailers such as myself have been saying all along: that tobacco consumption is led by culture not retail sales and displays,” he told C-Store. “These figures are further proof of how unnecessary a tobacco display ban is. We cannot afford these figures to be buried or dismissed by the health lobby; the industry needs to shout about them from the rooftops.”

The coalition government has held discussions behind closed doors about the merits of the display ban and the possible effect on small business. Senior ministers discussed the ban at a meeting between business and health departments before Parliament went into summer recess, but no new policy announcement has been forthcoming, despite MPs tabling a number of questions about the new government’s approach to tobacco control.