Plain packaging boosts smokers’ awareness of tobacco health warnings, a new report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) claims.

According to the Standardised Packaging for Tobacco Products report, the number of smokers who noticed on-pack tobacco health warnings has almost doubled in Australia, following the introduction of plain packaging in December 2012.

The BHF went on to urge the UK government to introduce plain packaging legislation prior to the general election on 7 May.

The call has been slammed by smokers’ rights group Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign.

Director Simon Clark urged the government to scrap plain packaging plans and wait to assess the impact of the EU Tobacco Products Directive which will substantially increase the size of on-pack health warnings from next year.

“Tobacco control campaigners said graphic health warnings would deter people from smoking but they’ve had minimal effect,” Clark said.

“The fact that it now wants to introduce plain packaging is an indictment of graphic health warnings and there’s nothing to suggest standardised packaging will be any more successful. 

“Next year, under the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive, health warnings will increase substantially in size. Surely government should assess the impact of that policy before proceeding with more regulations?”

The UK government’s second consultation into plain packaging closed on August 2 and a response is expected shortly.