15/04/2012 03:09 BST | Updated 14/06/2012 06:12 BST

Public Support Cigarettes In Plain Packets, Survey Finds

There is strong public support for forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging in England, an opinion poll found, amid a row over government plans to ban branding.

The survey, by YouGov for campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), found 62% supported the policy, which is due to be put out for consultation by ministers tomorrow.

Only 11% were opposed to the move, the poll - published by The Observer - showed.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley issued a hostile warning to the tobacco industry this week that he wanted to reach a point where it had "no business" in the UK.

But the packaging proposals were attacked by a broad coalition of pro-smoking groups, cigarette manufacturers, small shop owners and some MPs. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke - a cigar aficionado - is reported to have complained that the plan would be seen as the expansion of the nanny state. Clarke is said to be sceptical about the role packaging plays in encouraging young people to take up smoking.

Tory Mark Field warned it would create "a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial free speech" and encourage smuggling.

There are also fears that any change to the law on cigarette packaging could cost British jobs - one Belfast businessman recently said it would lead to 65 jobs going at his factory alone.

Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott said there was ample evidence that plain packs were less attractive to young people and also helped highlight the statutory health warnings.

"The argument used by 'big tobacco' and its supporters that this would lead to an increase in smuggling is laughable," she said.

"It's already so easy to copy packaging that it's only through covert markings that enforcement officers can tell the difference between authentic and counterfeit cigarette packs.

"We need to make smoking history for our children and getting rid of the glitzy packaging is the essential next step if we are to succeed."

YouGov surveyed 10,000 adults in England online between February 27 and March 16.