The owner of a Nova Scotia tobacco store has won the first round of a battle against a provincial law restricting the display of cigarettes.

The law took effect in 2007 and requires tobacco products to be displayed under the counter, part of Nova Scotia's larger strategy to lower smoking rates.

Bob Gee, who has operated Mader's Tobacco Store in Kentville for 35 years, was charged in 2008 with failing to comply with the law.

He challenged the law on the grounds that it tramples his freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a decision Wednesday, a provincial court judge agreed that the law infringed on Gee's rights. The next court appearance, scheduled for Oct. 6, will require the province to prove that the infringement is justifiable.

The province credits the "out of sight, out of mind" law with falling smoking rates in recent years.

Acting Health Minister Graham Steele said the province will continue to enforce the law until the next hearing.