New Zealand plans to follow Australia in introducing plain packaging on tobacco products.

Standardised packs with large health warnings could be on shelves as soon as next year, after the conclusion of a World Trade Organisation dispute over Australia’s introduction of plain packaging, associate health minister Tariana Turia said.

In the UK, Hands Off Our Packs campaigner Angela Harbutt said she was confident that New Zealand’s decision would not affect the United Kingdom where the government has yet to make a decision on the issue.

“We expect our government to take into account the enormous level of opposition to plain packaging in the UK. This includes consumer and retail groups, packaging and design companies, retired and serving police officers,” she added.

“The UK consultation on standardised packaging attracted 700,000 responses, half a million opposed to plain packs. It would be extraordinary if the government ignored that level of protest. People would rightly ask serious questions about the political process.”

Australian retailers have been forced to sell tobacco in plain packs since December 1 2012. Retailers claim that the move has failed to stem cigarette smoking, though it is proving costly for them, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) said.

Stores have had to invest time and money in retraining staff, and implementing new inventory management processes, while many still hold stocks of now worthless branded products, AACS director Jeff Rogut added.