NEW laws that make the display of tobacco in shops illegal will be expensive to enforce and run the risk of driving smaller retailers in Wirral out of business.
The legislation announced today - national No Smoking Day - will come into force for large stores in April next year and smaller shops in 2015.
The Government says it is designed to reduce the number of young people who start smoking.
Under the regulations only temporary displays in "certain limited circumstances" will be allowed.
The changes are being phased-in "to minimise the impact on businesses", according to a statement from the Department of Health.
But a survey of tobacconists by the Globe paints a different picture of local traders deeply concerned the no-display rule will drive some of them out of business.
Sukharj Kullar, assistant manager of Lifestyle Newsagents and Off-License in Birkenhead, fears the long-term effects could be devastating for smaller shops.
He said: “It’s going to cause a lot of trouble. A lot of small, independent traders like ours will go out of business because of the cost of storage.
“We’ve already spent a lot of money on redesigning the layout of the shop and have been told that we now have to put all our cigarettes under the counter.
“I’ve got nine shelves of cigarettes on display now, which all have got to go under the counter. This could cost us thousands.“
Lisa Mayler, manager of Cosmic News
in West Kirby, said: “We sell a lot of cigarettes and I think probably still will once the law comes into force.
“We’ve got a cabinet that we have been told has to be used to store cigarettes. This has to have a door on that is closed, so the cigarettes can’t be seen by the public. This also has to locked at all times.
“The problem with that is if you’re having to turn your back on customers to unlock the cabinet, it means you take your eye off what’s going on in the shop."
Imam Salam, owner of Argyle News
in Birkenhead, said: “If people want them they will go and buy them, regardless of whether they are not on display in the shop.
“What does concern me is that if you’re ducking down to cigarettes from under the counter, you might miss shoplifters helping themselves to your stock.”
A Wirral-based tobacco supplier, who asked not to be named, said the new law could push business from the supermarkets to the smaller shops.
It could also lead to an increase in sales of illegal tobacco.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley published "Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England" to coincide with today's national No Smoking Day.
Fiona Johnstone, director of public health for NHS Wirral and Wirral Council, said: “It is good News
that the Government has decided to press ahead with legislation which will start to see displays of tobacco for Sale
“They are just another form of advertising to encourage people to buy cigarettes and young people to start smoking.”
According to NHS Wirral, approximately 900 deaths per year in the borough are directly attributed to smoking.
Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, hit out at the plans.
A spokesman said: "The Government likes to talk about freedom - how about respecting the rights of smokers? Under Andrew Lansley, the nanny state is alive and well." THE GLOBE