With just weeks to go before the Health Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons, independent retailers are being urged to protest loudly about the impact that a ban on the display of tobacco would have on their businesses.

Trade associations are calling on retailers to take up the fight and tell their MPs about the expense and disruption a display ban would bring, before they start debating the issue in early June.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is asking its members to contact their local MPs in person, by phone or with a pro-forma letter available from www.acs.org.uk.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents echoed the call. National president Naresh Purohit said: "We are urging all our members to continue to press their MPs on this issue, to make them fully aware that banning tobacco displays will not stop children from smoking."

The call to arms comes just days after an amendment to remove the ban on tobacco display was defeated in the House of Lords by a margin of 204 to 110.

Proposing the amendment, Tory peer Earl Howe said that government research showing a ban would deter young people from smoking was "shot through with weaknesses and leaps of logic".

Retailers considered themselves the government's "best ally in preventing kids from getting hold of cigarettes," he commented.

Earl Howe added: "People who sell smuggled cigarettes in car parks do not care how old their customers are. It is ironic, therefore, that a measure designed to reduce youth smoking may actually serve to foster it."