The Rural Shops Alliance has called for the Government to make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco for underage smokers – so-called proxy purchasing is illegal in Scotland but not the rest of the British Isles.

Responding to the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre’s annual ‘Report on Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People In England’, it said: “There are no quick fixes, but the next step in reducing tobacco consumption by young people should be the prevention of proxy purchasing by adults, which is likely to be more effective than any of the alternative approaches.

“Responsible retailers have no wish to sell tobacco that goes to young people and most of the retail industry would support this measure.”

However, the RSA cautioned that underage smokers had easy access to smuggled tobacco, and any increased restrictions on the legal trade could nurture the parallel marketplace.

It also warned that ‘well-meaning’ attempts to make legitimate product less attractive, such as standardised packaging, could be counter-productive because it would also boost the illicit market.