March 24, BBC News

Displaying cigarettes in shops could be banned under government plans being considered in a bid to reduce smoking and discourage children from starting.

Ministers are also considering tougher controls on vending machines in pubs and restaurants.

A public consultation due to start within months will call for the public's opinions on these issues.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said it was "vital" to teach children that "smoking is bad".

"If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that," she said.

Ms Primarolo stressed: "Children who smoke are putting their lives at risk and are more likely to die of cancer than people who start smoking later."

The measures could effectively force the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products under the counter in convenience shops and supermarkets.

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photo: Teenager at shop counter. The plans are being considered to dissuade children from smoking (BBC News)