By Oliver Hotham
Plain packaging of cigarettes could lead to an increase in youth smoking, according to a report released today.
The report argued the government's proposal to remove all brand packaging of cigarettes and replace it with graphic health warnings could fuel black market demand, making it easier for the young to get hold of tobacco.
The report was published by the Adam Smith Institute, a prominent free market think tank.
Anti-smoking groups have argued that colourful packaging attracts young people and have described it as being like a "silent salesman".
The Australian government recently approved a similar policy, which will come into effect in December 2012. This decision has been challenged by tobacco giants Japan Tobacco, Phillip Morris and others in the courts.
The report's author, Chris Snowdon, argued the policy is illiberal and draconian, and citedthe perceived hypocrisy of a government proclaiming itself against regulation behaving so paternally.
"It seems that fanaticism has become institutionalised and a handful of extremists have become the de facto policy makers in matters related to tobacco. The public are gradually waking up to the fact that these neo-prohibitionists will never be satisfied," Mr Snowdonsaid.
"There is always another cause to campaign for, always new demands to be met. If it is not smoking, it is drinking. If it is not drinking, it is eating
"Those who would dictate what we eat and drink are already incorporating plain packaging into their plans. It’s time to say 'enough"
The report comes amid the government's announcement that it will launch a three month public consultation in the spring to review whether or not it should adopt the policy, a decision applauded by cancer charities and anti-smoking groups.