'Open mind' on cigarette packaging

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said his mind is "open" over proposals to strip cigarette packets of branding, as a consultation on the plans was launched.

Mr Lansley has invited people to give their views on whether branded cigarette packaging should disappear from the shelves.

"We are going to consult on whether we think it will work," he told ITV's Daybreak. "Would plain packaging of the type you are demonstrating ... offer a significant additional health benefit? At the moment actually our minds are open on this subject - mine too."

His remarks come after health campaigners welcomed the proposal, but opponents claimed it would lead to increased smuggling and job losses.

An opinion poll published on Sunday found strong public support for the sale of plain packaged cigarettes in England.

The survey of 10,000 adults in England, by YouGov for campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), found 62% supported the policy, which will be put out for consultation by ministers on Tuesday.

Only 11% were opposed to the move, the results - published by The Observer - showed.

But another survey, conducted on behalf of tobacco company Philip Morris International, has shown that 48% people believe a ban on branded packs would increase the black market for cigarettes.

A spokesman for the company said: "Plain packaging will not reduce smoking rates and on the contrary would just boost the already sizeable black market for counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes, a market that is unregulated, untaxed and run by criminals."

Mr Lansley issued a hostile warning to the tobacco industry last week saying he wanted to reach a point where it had "no business" in the UK.