Smoking rates in Australia have increased since the introduction of plain packaging in 2012, new findings have revealed.

According to new industry data published by Philip Morris Limited, legal tobacco sales rose incrementally by 59 million cigarettes in the first year plain packaging was introduced - reversing the long-term decline of legal sales volumes in the country since before 2009.

Illicit tobacco sales have also increased, with recent research from KPMG revealing a 154% increase in the sale of illegal ‘cheap white’ brands such as the Dubai manufactured Manchester, which now commands a 1.3% share of the Australian tobacco market.

A separate study by the Department of Economics at Zurich University and the University of Saarland has also failed to find any evidence that plain packaging has curbed youth smoking.

Eoin Dardis, director of corporate affairs for Philip Morris said: “Plain packaging in Australia has not reduced smoking rates and has had no impact on youth smoking prevalence. Consumers aren’t smoking less, they are just buying cheaper alternatives like roll-your-own cigarettes or turning to branded packs available on the black market.”

This latest evidence intensifies pressure on the UK Government to abandon its proposal for plain packaging, which is currently under review by paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler.

Chantler, who is also non-executive chairman of the quality and clinical risk committee of NHS England, was tasked with finding out if plain packaging would benefit public health and particularly children.

He is expected to report his findings back to the government later on this week.