British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, which between them own cigarette brands including Silk Cut, Lambert & Butler and Benson & Hedges claim the display ban will lead to an increase in black market cigarette sales and damage small businesses.
The ban will prevent shops from retailing cigarettes in gantry displays behind the counter meaning all branding and products will be hidden.
British American Tobacco says it believes the display ban “prevents manufacturers from communicating to consumers the most basic product information and is anti-competitive under EU law as it will be impossible to tell consumers about new products available for sale.”
It is due to come into effect next year as part of the Health Bill designed to discourage youngsters from take up the habit.
Gareth Davis, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco says: “There is no credible evidence to support the idea that children start smoking or that adult smokers continue to smoke as a result of the display of tobacco products.
If this misguided legislation is implemented it will simply fuel the growth in the illicit trade of tobacco and create a huge cost burden for retailers who are already under considerable pressure as a result of the difficult economic climate.”
Japan Tobacco managing director Daniel Torras adds the government has failed to provide support to justify the display ban.
He adds: “There is no credible evidence that hiding cigarette packs from view at retail outlets will achieve the objective of further reducing youth smoking.”
Imperial Tobacco today revealed the company returned to profit in the past six months as sales rose 8% to £13.4bn.
Pre tax profit for the six months to March were £974m compared with a pre-tax loss of £184m the year before.