A new website which allows opponents of the plain packaging legislation to email their local MP directly has been launched by Forest, the smokers lobby group behind the ‘Hands Off Our Packs’ campaign.  

The site will be supported by an online advertising campaign which is expected to reach just under a million people in the next five days.

Visitors to the website www.no2plainpacks.org must enter their postcode, name and email. A template letter is then sent directly to their local MP.

The letter claims that plain packaging “was not included in any election manifesto in 2010 and was rejected by the previous government in 2008 on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support such a policy.”

 “Police officers, retired and serving, have expressed concern that plain packaging will encourage organised crime,” it adds. “Their views are shared by many small retailers, wholesalers, packaging companies and design agencies who may be forced to cut jobs if plain packaging is introduced.”

Six months have now passed since the plain packaging consultation closed, and the Department of Health is expected to report back on the findings any day now.

Last week, Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley delivered an open letter, signed by 73 fellow MPs, opposing plain packaging to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt. The letter claims that plain packaging would have many unintended consequences, namely increased illicit trade in tobacco products.

“Further smuggling and illicit trade will prevail, and as a result, both our economy and subsequently employment will suffer,” Democratic Unionist Party member Paisley added.

“What the open letter has attempted to convey is the sheer naivety and ill-judgement of these proposals and the many negative unintended consequences that come with it,” he said.

This point was also made to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry in a briefing by the UK Packaging Industry Group last week.

The group argued that plain packaging would increase the amount of imported counterfeit products, and could threaten jobs.