The government’s intention to explore the possibility of plain packaging for tobacco products has left the industry confused about what this will mean for the planned display ban.

Speaking ahead of the launch of a Health White Paper in December, Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said it was “wrong that children were being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets”, sparking speculation about the proposed display ban.

Association of Convenience Stores said that both possibilities were bad for the retailer, and it made no sense for both pieces of legislation to work together.

Shane Brennan, public affairs director at the ACS, said: “We need some sort of clarity. Both are bad for the retailers and the worst of all would be for both together – we’ve made that very clear to government.”

The Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) has also questioned the legality of plans for plain packaging. Chris Ogden, TMA chief executive, said: “Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the government in breach of legal obligations relating to intellectual property, international trade and European law.”