Retailers are celebrating a rare victory in the ongoing battle over tobacco sales after the Government put on hold plans for on-the-spot fines for shop staff guilty of selling tobacco to underage consumers.

Earlier this month the Government unveiled plans to introduce on-the-spot fines of £80 for shop staff who breached regulations on the sale of tobacco to under-18s. The fines would have come into effect on 26 January.

However, it was announced yesterday that the plans had been put on hold pending a consultation, in a rare boost for small retailers already angered by moves to bring tobacco 'under the counter'.

"We welcome the fact that Government has taken the decision to withdraw the legislation and will now take time to consult widely on the proposal," said James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores. "It is vitally important that we fully understand the implication for enforcement of the introduction of new penalties. We look forward to playing a full part in consultation on this measure."