The Scottish government has reiterated its vow to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products as early as next year.

Speaking to an audience of public health experts, minister for public health Michael Matheson said: “I am determined to see Scotland remain at the forefront of those countries committed to bold action to reduce the harm to our health caused by tobacco.

“To build a generation free from tobacco it is necessary to restrict the imagery and design that tobacco companies use to pull in another generation to use these addictive and lethal products.”

The government would continue to take account of “any new evidence emerging from Australia” which introduced plain packaging last December, as Scotland moved toward a consultation on the next steps in in the New Year, Matheson added.

The Scottish Wholesale Association urged him to consider a new report that showed the illicit tobacco trade had continued to grow in the year since plain packaging was introduced in Australia.

The KPMG report, ‘Illicit Tobacco in Australia’, provided “compelling early evidence that plain packaging will encourage the illicit trade of goods, damaging legitimate operators in Scotland,” SWA executive director Kate Salmon said.

“This is disturbing and should set alarm bells ringing that the introduction of plain packaging in Scotland will harm wholesalers and their retail customers by further benefiting the black market – and do nothing to encourage people to reduce their consumption of cigarettes and tobacco,” she added.