A ban on tobacco display in shops will take effect in the Irish Republic from 1 July, making it the first EU country to implement such a measure.

The aim of the clampdown was to "de-normalise tobacco" in order to protect children from taking up smoking, said health promotion minister Mary Wallace.

In addition to the display ban and introduction of closed containers for tobacco products, all in-store tobacco advertising will be outlawed, the operation of cigarette vending machines restricted and a retail register established for the licensing of tobacco sales.

Implementation of the legislation, which was introduced last year, had been delayed to allow for consultations with trade representatives. However, no concessions have been made. Retailers have now launched a last-ditch attempt to persuade Government to defer the measures because of the heavy toll the recession is taking on the sector.

Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores' and Newsagents' Association, cited the high cost of refitting shops to meet the new regulations. "What retailer wants to take out a loan in the present climate for work that is of no benefit to the business? What bank will sanction a loan in such circumstances?"

Retailers are also alarmed that breaches of the display ban can result in a €3,000 fine and a 90-day suspension of the licence to sell tobacco.