The Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) has called on the Government to shelve plans to push sales under the counter because there is no firm evidence it would result in a reduction in smoking.
In its consultation to the Government's Future of Tobacco Control document, which proposes a vending machine ban and pushing sales below the counter, the TMA said that where product dipslays have been banned in Iceland and some parts of Canada, there has been no reduction in smoking.
It believes POS displays are necessary for fair and undistorted competition between manfacturers and retailers.
"There are other initiatives open to the government that would reduce youth smoking such as reducing youth access to tobacco products through enforcing minimum age laws and tackling illicit trade," said TMA chief executive Christopher Ogden.
"A ban on the display of products will also blur the distinction between the legal and illegal market by virtue of it all being 'under the counter'.
"It does not make sense financially either. In today's economic climate and challenging circumstances for the average smoker, particularly in disadvantaged areas, we are concerned that they will be tempted to buy more illicit tobacco, with subsequent loss of taxation.
"While we welcome any sensible proposals that will assist in preventing the sale of tobacco to children under the age of 18, any proposals should be supported by credible evidence that they would address the government's stated objectives."
The BII yesterday voiced its concern over a possible vending machine ban and restrictions being put in place. Industry consultant Ali Carter said the removal of vending machines could "be the straw that breaks the camel's back".
BII deputy chairman Bernard Brindley said he believed pubs would not be able to sell cigarettes below the counter because of security, space and cost concerns. "It would be a service nightmare," he said.