In a bid to discourage smoking and reduce the trend, retailers in Britain may soon be bound by law to keep cigarettes under the counter.
Prominent displays of tobacco products would be banned, while cigarette vending machines would be made more difficult for people under 18 years old to use, under proposals outlined by Health Secretary Alan Johnson.
Corner shops, which typically sell cigarettes displayed on the wall behind the counter, have protested against the move, saying it will significantly harm their business.
But Johnson said the ban would first be introduced in supermarkets, while small corner shops would in any case need to "diversify" what they sell as the rate of smoking falls.
"Any sane, rational and sensible government will be focusing on removing what is the biggest public health risk," he told BBC radio.
"Other countries have found when they banned point-of-sale displays, they reduced the number of young people taking up smoking," he added, saying that removing displays would notably cut the number of people buying on impulse.
Chris Ogden, head of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA), said: "We are in the grip of a recession and it is hardly the time to knock small businesses by measures such as these.
"It is the retailers more than the manufacturers that are going to be hit by these proposals, and we feel a great deal of concern for them," he added.
Around 10 million Britons smoke out of a total population of more than 60 million. A number of measures in recent years have aimed to cut the number of smokers.
Written warnings on packs were adopted in 2003, while the minimum age for buying tobacco rose from 16 to 18 last year. Smoking in enclosed public places is banned across the country.