Youth smoking rates have increased since plain packaging was introduced in Australia two years ago, Australian government figures have revealed.

The number of 12 to 17-year-olds who smoke daily increased from 2.5% in 2010 to 3.4% in 2013, according to the full findings from the Australian Government’s National Drugs Strategy Household Survey 2013.

The number of 12 to 17 year olds who smoke around once a week (defined as ‘occasional’ smokers) has also grown from 1.3% to 1.6%.

All other age groups, with the exception of the over 70s, showed a decline in smoking rates – in line with the long-term downward trend.

Smoking prevalence has been falling slowly over the years and long before the introduction of plain packaging.

In 2010, two years prior to the introduction of plain packaging, the number of daily smokers had already fallen to 15.1%, down from 16.6% in 2007.

The survey also highlighted that the illicit trade remains a key problem, with just under 20% of smokers claiming to have seen tobacco being sold in illegal branded packs in 2013 and 10% of smokers admitting to having bought it.

Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest said the findings should cause alarm bells to ring in Westminster.

“Plain packaging hasn’t worked. Youth smoking rates in Australia have gone up since it was introduced.

“Standardised packaging would be a huge risk with no beneficial effect. We urge the government to learn from Australia’s experience and abandon this ill-conceived and potentially costly measure,” he added.