Just over a week into his new job, health secretary Jeremy Hunt is under extreme pressure to abandon his predecessor’s controversial plans for plain packaging of tobacco products.

Former health secretary Andrew Lansley, who was removed from his post following an extensive government reshuffle earlier this month, had previously spoken of his “pride” that the UK would be the first in Europe to consult on plain packaging.

“Tobacco is not like alcohol. There is no responsible level of tobacco consumption. There are no two ways about it - smoking kills and we have to reduce it,” he told a Royal College Physicians conference, shortly before the consultation was launched.

The government still has two months before it needs to report back on the consultation’s findings, and retailers are hopeful that new health secretary Jeremy Hunt could be persuaded to abandon the idea.

“We hope that Jeremy Hunt will take a close look at the evidence and if he does he will see that smoking in the population is reducing, that there is a range of legislation recently enacted or coming into force that has yet to be assessed and he will not be convinced by the case for yet more significant disruption to retailers businesses,” Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) public affairs director Shane Brennan told Convenience Store.

Whitstable retailer and Tobacco Retailers Alliance national president Debbie Corris added: “We hope that once Jeremy Hunt gets his feet under his desk, he will listen to the views of around half a million people including many retailers who responded to the government’s consultation saying that they did not believe that the standardised packaging of tobacco would reduce youth smoking,”