Campaigners opposed to plain packaging of tobacco have accused the government of ignoring the views of hundreds of thousands of people who opposed the policy in a public consultation.
They also describe as “premature” the government’s decision to commission a further review of the evidence.
The review, announced this morning in a written statement by public health minister Jane Ellison, follows a public consultation in 2012 that attracted over 700,000 responses, almost half a million of them opposed to standardised packaging.
Angela Harbutt, campaigns manager at the smokers’ group Forest which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, said: “Over 700,000 people took part in the public consultation and a huge majority opposed plain packaging.
“Fifteen months later the government seems to be ignoring the outcome of that consultation despite the fact that very little has changed in the intervening period.
“Although Australia introduced plain packaging twelve months ago it’s far too early to say what the long-term impact will be.
“Recent reports however suggest that smoking prevalence has remained the same while illicit trade has gone up.
“In contrast, there is no evidence that plain packaging has had any impact on youth smoking rates.
“Although we think it’s premature, we welcome a further review as long as it considers all the available evidence and is genuinely independent and impartial.”