In a bid to cut down on the number of people smoking, the ban on public display of tobacco is coming into force.

The new legislation taking effect on 6 April means packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products will have to be kept under the counter or stay hidden in cupboards.

This is aimed at reducing the temptation for children and young people to smoke. The new law will require all large shops and supermarkets to scrap displays at the point of sale. Campaigners argue that these have become more visual, colourful and attractive as bans on other forms of advertising have shut marketing opportunities for tobacco companies.

Earlier research revealed that shop displays play a crucial role in enticing young people to smoking. For this reason the law is largely being welcomed by NHS stop-smoking experts.

While the products will be out of sight only in supermarkets, news agents and small stores can display cigarettes until 2015, giving them time to refit shelves and cabinets.

According to the Department of Health figures, more than 30,000 children under 16 try smoking each year and 5 per cent of children aged 11 to 15 are regular smokers. As many as 39 per cent of smokers say that they were smoking regularly before the age of 16.

Health Minister Anne Milton says: "Banning displays of cigarettes and tobacco will help young people resist the pressure to start smoking and help the thousands of aduls in England who are currently trying to quit.

We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching cigarette displays. Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers and we need to stop this trend," reported Walesonline.

A spokesperson for British American Tobacco says: "We do not believe that hiding products under the counter or behind curtains or screens will discourage people, including the young, from taking up smoking. There's no sound evidence to prove display bans are justified," the BBC reported.

The ban comes into effect in spite of fierce opposition by Big Tobacco, which until only a few months ago was considering a legal battle.

Other countries such as Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Thailand have also introduced similar bans.