The world's four biggest cigarette groups dropped their legal challenge on Thursday to an English ban on displaying tobacco products in shops after the government made concessions and due to delays in adopting rules defining the scope of the ban.

The four - Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris -- had called for a judicial review, but since then the government has delayed the timing of the ban and altered details of how cigarettes should be hidden from view in shops.

The display ban will take effect for large retailers on April 6, 2012, and in April 2015 for small retailers in England.

Japan Tobacco said its decision was taken due to the UK Department of Health's decision not to approve final rules until March 2012 at the earliest and so this meant little time for the English High Court to make a decision before the ban took effect.

The delays experienced in the English display ban regulations being put in place mean that we have been left with no other alternative but to discontinue this challenge, said Martin Southgate, managing director of JTI UK in a statement.

BAT added that the UK government had made significant changes to the display ban to cut the burden on small retailers and so it had decided to withdraw its challenge and concentrate on working with retailers to deal with other difficulties the ban will pose.

(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)