The Government will not ban tobacco displays in shops, says Health Minister Tony Ryall.

Confirmation of the decision, previously signalled by Prime Minister John Key, came yesterday in Mr Ryall's response to a petition which asked for cigarettes and tobacco to be stored out of sight in retail outlets.

Parliament's health select committee backed the petition, but it also said evidence could not directly link the banning of displays with decreasing smoking rates.

Mr Ryall said the Government was committed to reducing smoking and was prepared to consider any new and effective initiatives.

"The Government will consider any options, including legislation, if international or domestic research gives us a compelling case that it would lead to a significant decrease in tobacco use. I have asked the ministry to keep monitoring international moves in this area."

The New Zealand Medical Association urged Mr Ryall to reconsider.

"Stopping the tobacco industry from advertising its products at point of sale is a vital step towards ensuring that the next generation of young New Zealanders don't get hooked on an addictive product which kills half of its long-term users," said association chairman Peter Foley.

The Nurses Organisation and the Dental Association said they were dismayed by the decision.

Research showed that young people did notice tobacco displays, a joint statement said, and teenagers who saw them were more likely to start smoking.

- NZPA