Forecourt stores will be banned from displaying tobacco products from April 6, 2015, the government has announced today.

The amended regulations, as set out in the Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Plan, will mean that tobacco products will need to be out of sight in shops, except for temporary displays in certain limited circumstances; and shopkeepers will have greater flexibility so that they can more easily undertake stock-taking or maintenance work while there are customers in the shop.

The size of the display allowed while serving customers or carrying out the other authorised activities will increase from 0.75sq m to 1.5sq m; and retailers will have additional time to prepare – particularly small shops. The regulations will commence on 6 April 2012 for large stores.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are disappointed that the government is pressing ahead with a tobacco display ban imposing £40m of costs on small retailers. There simply isn’t the evidence to suggest that the measure will reduce smoking among young people. The concessions made are not sufficient to allay the long term harm that this measure will cause for local shops.”

The government has also said it has “an open mind” about plain packaging and wants to hear views. It will consult on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including plain packaging, and an assessment of the impact of these options, before the end of 2011.

Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), said: “The TMA is strongly opposed to the principle of plain packaging and would expect a genuine consultation and regulatory impact assessment if the government decides to pursue this further.

“We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence. 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.

“Plain packs are also likely to lead to yet further increases in the smuggling of tobacco products and plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products.”