This month, as new regulations are introduced that could close down a store that accidentally makes three underage sales in two years, it's increasingly important that responsible retailers make it clear that they are not the main source of tobacco products to children.
Unless the emphasis is shifted, it's likely that future legislation will continue to penalise the legitimate retailer, while other routes of supply - parents, older friends, siblings and street traders - are left unchallenged.
Last month we invited C-Store readers to write to their MP about this clear inequality. Over 400 of you read the sample letter on our website, and we're asking those who wrote to their MP to tell us when they get a reply.
We're gathering heavyweight support behind our call. James Lowman of the ACS put the retailers' case on the BBC's You and Yours programme, and John Drummond of the Scottish Grocers' Federation has weighed in with a call for greater resources to tackle the illicit trade. "Government figures reveal proxy purchasing is a major route to market for many underage smokers. As it stands nothing is being done about it - yet it is immoral and should be illegal," he said.
Also in the last few weeks, an attempt was made to attach a law making proxy purchasing of tobacco illegal to the Health Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament.
Earl Howe put the case in the House of Lords debate. "The government's own figures show that 89% of young people say that they either buy or are given cigarettes by another person," he said. "Proxy purchasing, far from being uncommon, is the most serious component of youth access to tobacco."
The amendment was withdrawn pending a review of the new sanctions on retailers.
That's a knockback, not a knockout. There's still a good chance to change the law, for the benefit of thousands of retailers and millions of children. All we need is persuasive evidence that will convince the policy-makers to take this issue seriously.
What you can do
Every retailer knows children who smoke - but you know you're not selling to them.
So how are these under 18s getting their cigarettes? We're asking you to tell us, based on your deep knowledge of your local community, what the real routes of supply are.
Call David Visick on 01293 846505, email email@example.com, or write to Convenience Store, William Reed Business Media, Broadfield Park, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 9RT.