Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee has been considering proposals put forward by the Scottish Government that aim to curb the sale of cigarettes and tobacco to youngsters.

If passed, the legislation would ban stores from displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products, outlaw cigarette vending machines and introduce a registration system for tobacco retailers.

However, MSPs on the committee have also urged the Government to include a provision in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill that would make it a criminal act for adults to buy tobacco for under-age youngsters.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said: “Everyone agreed that deterrents to stop young people smoking are necessary and this is why we are calling for the Bill to be amended to criminalise the act of buying cigarettes on behalf of under-18s.”

Public health minister Shona Robison has already said she will consider whether this can be introduced.

A majority of committee members backed the ban on displaying cigarettes.

But in their report on the proposals, the MSPs accepted this would result in a cost to businesses, which would have to make changes to comply with such a measure.

The report also revealed that most MSPs on the committee believed it was “not appropriate to sell tobacco in vending machines”.

And it stated: “In this context the majority of committee members are, on balance, in favour of the prohibition of vending machines for the sale of tobacco products.”

Ms Grahame said: “The majority of our committee believes that cigarettes at the point of sale represent an advertisement and a ban on these displays would have a particularly positive effect in deterring teenagers.

“Most members also believe that cigarette vending machines should be banned.”

She added that the committee had expressed its support for proposals for a national register of tobacco retailers and for police to have powers to confiscate tobacco from under-18s.

The majority of committee members also backed measures in the Bill which aim to exclude certain individuals or private firms from entering into contracts with health boards to provide GP services.

MSPs did express some reservations, with some members of the committee believing the proposals should be changed to allow community co-operatives to hold such contracts.

And all MSPs agreed with the Royal College of Nurses that the legislation should allow the possibility of general medical services contracts being held by nurses as well as GPs in the future.

Ms Robison said: “Across Scotland, too many families have watched loved ones suffer and die prematurely as a result of smoking-related illnesses.

“The cost of smoking is high - both in terms of premature deaths and the £400 million cost to the NHS annually.

“That’s why we are taking radical steps to ban both tobacco displays in shops and cigarette vending machines. These measures, and others included in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill, will help to reduce the attractiveness and availability of cigarettes of children, stopping them becoming the smokers of tomorrow.

“We’re committed to cutting the number of smokers in Scotland. Stopping people from starting to smoke in the first place is a priority for us and this legislation will help to do just that.”

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “With regard to the points raised in the report, the proposals do not specifically exclude individuals or organisations from holding a GP contract but make provisions to ensure anyone holding such a contract has a direct involvement in patient care.

“It will not be possible under the Bill’s provisions for a profit-motivated company with no medical links to hold such a contract.

“Nurses are already eligible to be the sole holder of a specific type of GP contract - known as a section 17C contract - or to hold a general medical services contract in partnership with a GP, but we are unaware of any such instances.

“We are not changing nurses’ eligibility to hold such a contract and in present circumstances we do not consider it appropriate that nurses should be eligible to be the sole holders of a general medical services contract.”

John Drummond, the chief executive of the Scottish Grocers` Federation, said: “We are extremely disappointed the committee has recommended a ban on the display of tobacco despite their own admission that the international evidence to support this measure is inconclusive.”

He added that the Federation had “repeatedly made the argument that regulations should only be made when they are supported by compelling evidence”.

And he said: “A display ban will impose a significant burden on retailers at a time when they can least afford it.”

However Mr Drummond gave his backing to the committee`s call for the Government to make it an offence to adults to buy cigarettes for under 18s.

He said: “The single most likely way for a young person to get hold of cigarettes is through an adult. Currently there is no legal deterrent to adults who supply tobacco for young people.”

He added that moves to criminalise this proxy purchasing would be welcome and said: “Proxy purchasing tobacco for young people is immoral and should be illegal.”