Convenience retailers have given a cautious welcome to new Conservative Party promises to clamp down on the illegal tobacco trade and review the law relating to the proxy purchasing of tobacco by adults for children.

Launching the party’s Green Paper on Health, shadow secretary of state for health Andrew Lansley said that tackling tobacco smuggling would be a key way in which the party would reduce smoking rates, should it win this year’s general election.

“The UK consumption of some five billion cigarettes purchased internationally directly undermines the use of taxation to cut smoking, and the latest government estimates of non-UK duty paid cigarette consumption amount to tax revenue losses of up to £4.1bn, at a time we can ill afford them,” he said.

Independent retailer Debbie Corris of Jim Ingram’s in Whitstable, Kent, said the plans were good news for the small shops industry.

“The Conservatives recognise the importance of reducing the black market, which threatens legitimate businesses,” she said. “Criminalising proxy purchasing of tobacco would really help to level the playing field for c-store retailers as well.”

The paper also includes a plan to lower the number of cigarettes which can be brought into the UK from other EU countries legally, and to introduce a tougher licensing regime for alcohol retailers.

The Association of Convenience Stores welcomed the paper, but also called for further clarification on some of the plans. 

Chief executive James Lowman said: “Mr Lansley is putting evidence-based polices and personal responsibility, rather than knee-jerk regulation, at the top of the public health agenda for any future Conservative government.

“We will be holding the next government to account on the principles of better regulation that all parties too often forget when they introduce new rules,” he added.