The Department of Health has finally given the go-ahead to a consultation on plain packaging for tobacco products, to take place this spring.

In an unusual move which recognises the “complex series of issues” associated with plain packaging, the consultation will be UK-wide, and accompanied by an independent evidence review.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said it would offer ministers all the support they needed in understanding the harm that such a measure would impose on retailers, many of whom will also have to comply with a display ban from April 6.

“Generic packaging will create a significant burden for local shop retailers,” Lowman said. “The confusion his would create would be an unbearable burden on thousands of businesses.”

Plain packaging would also slow down service times, affect customer service and make stock management harder, he said, before adding a warning about the potential impact on pricing.

“If generic packaging were to lead to the removal of price variations in the category, this would lead to a reduction in the price of tobacco to consumers and the removal of profitability from retailers,” he added.