Retailers were left fuming yesterday as the government confirmed tobacco displays would be banned in shops.

Despite signs last week that the government was backing away from the controversial move, the Department of Health said tobacco displays would be removed from large stores from 2011 and from smaller stores by 2013.

“Enticing multi-coloured displays encourage young people to start smoking - we must put a stop to this,” said Health Secretary Alan Johnson. “My hope is that shops will use this opportunity to promote healthier goods to their customers.”

But retailers rounded on the government, describing the move as a “pointless cost”.

 “The government is right to try to stop children smoking but banning displays in shops is just not the way, said British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson.

“It will impose thousands of pounds of pointless refit costs on stores, ultimately met by customers, and create delays and inconvenience for customers and staff.”

James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores, added: “We have explained that implementing a tobacco display ban will cost our industry over £250m and concessions on a longer lead-in period will not allay our grave concerns. This announcement makes a mockery of government claims to be the friend of small and local businesses.”