Shops may have to remove displays
The open display of tobacco in shops is to be banned in England and Wales, the government has announced.
But plans for an outright ban on tobacco vending machines and branding on cigarette packets have been scrapped - at least for now.
Ministers hope the display ban, which is also under consideration in Scotland, will reduce smoking. Northern Ireland is yet to decide a policy.
Critics say the moves do not go far enough to stop young people smoking.
A government consultation on how to deter young people from smoking launched six months ago found the "overwhelming majority" of 100,000 responses backed the display ban.
Health Secretary for England Alan Johnson said he had been impressed with evidence from other countries, suggesting the move would have an impact on smoking rates.
Ministers say where other countries - such as Iceland and Canada - have removed displays, smoking prevalence among young people has fallen by up to 10%.
Alan Johnson said: "They see the point of sale display and as a result of seeing it, it encourages them to take up smoking. This is the key evidence as to why we have 200,000 11 to 15-year-olds smoking."
He said people who start smoking in their youth - aged 11 to 15 - are three times more likely to die a premature death than someone who takes up smoking at the age of 20.
They are also more likely to be hooked for life.
Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-smoking group ASH, backed the ban and said the prohibition of the display of tobacco products at point of sale would be "a proportionate response to the death and disease caused by tobacco".
England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, called the move "another step on the road to victory on tobacco-related illness."
Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said it was "the nanny state going too far."
Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said a display ban would inconvenience millions of consumers.
"It's gesture politics, designed to denormalise adults who wish to purchase and consume a perfectly legal product."
The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association also opposes the cigarette display ban and says it could have serious unintended consequences, such as driving the sale of illicit tobacco.
It could also damage the income of smaller shops that rely heavily on tobacco sales, said the TMA's chief executive Mr Chris Ogden.
Mr Johnson said the big supermarkets would be asked first to remove their displays - in 2011 - followed by corner shops - in 2013.
He said other plans had been scrapped as a result of the consultation - such as getting rid of 10-pack cigarettes. Only selling cigarettes in packs of 20 might drive people who are trying to quit to smoke more, he said.
But Mr Johnson said they would clamp down on underage sales from cigarette sales vending machines - people wanting to buy these cigarettes will have to show proof of age to obtain a token to work the machine.
If this doesn't work, Mr Johnson said they had the power to ban vending machines altogether.
The British Heart Foundation says a total ban on vending machines is the only way to prevent children accessing cigarettes.
Vending machines are the source of cigarettes for nearly one in five young smokers aged 11 to 15 - some 46,000 children.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Let's face it - illegal drugs flourish without advertising or display. This is government by pressure group
Richard Buxton, Reading
A British Heart Foundation spokeswoman said: "When the government announces further steps on tobacco control we expect nothing less than a robust tobacco control plan which includes a total ban on cigarette vending machines.
"We are concerned about the large number of children being able to access cigarettes without a face to face transaction."
The British Lung Foundation agreed, saying: "Nearly three quarters of people with lung disease tell us that they believe there should be a total ban on cigarette vending machines as they are the main source of cigarettes to young smokers."
Dr Vivienne Nathanson of the British Medical Association said: "We hope the proposals to make vending machines 'child-proof' will be rigidly enforced and that if they do not work then this issue will be revisited by ministers."
The government had also considered banning all promotional material from tobacco packaging.
But ministers say until there is enough evidence such a move would actually stop young people taking up smoking it will not introduce a ban.