Industry experts have slammed MPs after they voted in favour of the tobacco display ban. The move came as the Health Bill worked its way through the House of Commons yesterday. In addition, MPs voted to ban the sale of tobacco from vending machines – as a new clause this will have to go back to the Lords to be voted on.

The ACS warned the decisions meant that ministers were "planning the most costly and disruptive tobacco display ban of its type in the world". ACS chief executive James Lowman (pictured) said: “The Minister has proposed regulations that are the most inflexible of their type anywhere in the world. It makes a mockery of the repeated reassurances that Ministers have made to Parliament and businesses that they will take a light touch approach to compliance.”

Meanwhile, Imperial Tobacco said that the government had "once again ignored the abundant evidence that legislation to ban tobacco displays will have no impact on young people smoking but will instead place an unnecessary burden on retailers".

It said that rather than listening to calls from the Opposition benches for a full debate and free vote on the issue, the government had "driven this legislation through the House with minimum consideration".

Amal Pramanik, general manager of Imperial Tobacco UK, said: "Imperial Tobacco has consistently expressed its concerns about the effect this legislation will have on small retailers and the illicit trade in tobacco products. The latest evidence from Ireland, where a display ban has been in place for 3 months, strongly suggests that a ban on the display of tobacco will exacerbate the problem of smuggled and counterfeit product.

“Retailers are justifiably concerned about the lack of evidence and the public have a right to know why the Government has been wedded to such an ineffectual proposal when the collateral damage from it is likely to be so great.

“Imperial Tobacco has always supported the Government’s proposal to reduce the illegal access by minors to cigarette vending machines. Responsible vending companies have actively developed restricted access mechanisms on cigarette vending machines and have been successfully trialling these devices in partnership with publicans.

“This decision represents a betrayal of those in the vending sector who have worked hard to develop an acceptable solution. Banning vending is a disproportionate response to a diminishing problem and now threatens the livelihoods of all whose jobs depend on the vending sector for no discernible purpose.

“I sincerely hope the House of Lords will see sense and reverse this decision.”