The Department of Health has appealed to retailers to start preparing for the tobacco display ban which comes into force across the UK on 6 April next year.

The display of tobacco products has been banned in stores over 3,000 sq ft since 2012 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Scotland followed suit a year later.

From next April the ban will be extended to all stores. Failure to comply could lead to a maximum two-year prison sentence, unlimited fine, or both.

“With only five months to go before the legislation applies to all shops and businesses selling tobacco, I strongly encourage retailers to start preparing for the changes now,” said public health minister Jane Ellison.

“Eye-catching displays of colourful cigarette packets can encourage young people to start smoking and undermine the resolve of adults who are trying to quit,” Ellison added.

The DoH said retailers could get support from the tobacco industry in making their displays compliant.

Meanwhile, the DoH has warned electronic cigarette companies that the advertising of their products on television and radio will be short-lived.

Advertising of e-cigarettes on television became permissible as of yesterday (10 November) under a new a new code unveiled by the Committee of Advertising Practice last month.

But the DoH said the European Tobacco Products Directive scheduled to come in from May 2016 would prevent the advertising of e-cigarettes on television and radio.

“More and more people are using e-cigarettes which is why we want to make sure they are properly regulated. We support the European directive’s proposed controls on e-cigarette advertising which will apply from  May 2016.”