Government proposals to ban the open display of cigarettes in shops would lead to "considerable operational and equipment costs" according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

"We would expect the government to present a clear case that these measures were necessary before placing yet another significant burden on thousands of retailers across the country," said ACS chief executive James Lowman.

The proposal will be one of several suggested in the government’s forthcoming policy consultation on tobacco regulation as part of its Cancer Reform Strategy. It would mean that tobacco products would be forced out of sight - probably under the counter. Lowman continued: "If the Department of Health brings forward new tobacco regulations, we will work constructively, but critically, to ensure that these meet their own principles of better regulation, in particular that the burdens that any measures imposed on business are proportionate and effectively targeted."

He also argued that the government had more pressing matters to address: "One-fifth of all tobacco smoked in the UK is supplied by the black market and the government has to do more to tackle those who sell illegal and counterfeit tobacco."

The Department of Health’s consultation process is due to start in late May. Other options expected to be discussed include the ban of 10s packs of cigarettes, the ban of tobacco vending machines and the introduction of a retailer licensing scheme.