Smaller shops – under 3,000sq ft – do not have to hide their tobacco products until 2015, and wholesaler Booker has said they could net £1 billion in sales with the advantage over the multiples.
Retailers and lobby groups have raised concerns that the display ban, known as “going dark”, will cause long queues at tobacco counters.
Booker has predicted that £500 million in tobacco sales will move to independents once the display ban comes into force in multiples, and could bring with them another £500 in sales in other categories.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said: ““If the aim is to reduce smoking rates the display ban won’t work. After some initial confusion, existing smokers will ask for their regular brand and carry on smoking.
“The display ban is intended to denormalise cigarettes but tobacco is a legal product and adult consumers have a right to see clearly and without impediment the choice that is available to them.”