Displaying cigarettes in shops could be banned in England under government plans being considered to cut smoking and discourage children from starting.
The plans are being considered to dissuade children from smoking
Tougher controls on vending machines in pubs and restaurants are also being discussed, and the public will be consulted on the proposals soon.
Ex-smoker and Tory leader David Cameron said the idea was worth looking at.
But the Association of Convenience Stores said the move would be ineffective and present major problems.
It said forcing shops to hide their cigarettes would create practical difficulties and result in extra expense for shop owners.
Under the counter
Outlining the proposals, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said it was "vital" to teach children that "smoking is bad".
"If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that," she said.
Ms Primarolo stressed: "Children who smoke are putting their lives at risk and are more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking later."
Opposition leader Mr Cameron backed the idea, saying: "As someone who struggled with giving up smoking, it helps if you take away some of the temptation.
"It is difficult and there will be all sorts of problems in terms of the layout of shops, that's why it is right to have a consultation.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Either ban cigarettes entirely (and deal with the loss to the treasury) or don't, but enough with demonising smokers.
"Let's not rule it out," he added.
The measures could effectively force the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products under the counter in convenience shops and supermarkets.
Measures that make it easier to sell nicotine replacement gums and patches are also under consideration.
The Department of Health, which is keen to prevent youngsters from smoking, has cited research that suggests someone who starts smoking at the age of 15 is three times more likely to die of smoking-related cancer than someone who starts in their late 20s.
The proposed measures come after this year's Budget in which Chancellor Alistair Darling increased the duty on tobacco, adding 11p to the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes and 4p to the price of five cigars.
The chancellor also said the government was continuing the 5% reduced rate of VAT on smoking cessation products beyond 30 June.
A ban on smoking in public places and workplaces in England came into force last July.
Bans were introduced in Scotland in 2006, and in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.