Rebel Conservative MPs have accused their own party of running a nanny state Government over plans to bring in plain packaging for tobacco.

With the proposals subject to a ‘short, final’ consultation announced by health minister Jane Ellison in April, MPs are asking retailers to get involved in their campaign.

As many as 50 Conservative backbenchers are understood to be against plain tobacco packaging, including Shipley MP Philip Davies, who advised retailers to tell their MP they would not vote for anyone supporting the proposals.

He told Retail Express: “It’s a complete triumph for the nanny state and it’s completely ridiculous. It won’t make any difference at all to smoking levels.

“The minister is a complete prisoner of ASH and does whatever it says she should do. We’ve already got a display ban so what need is there for plain packaging as well? Whoever proposed plain packaging has obviously never worked on a cigarette kiosk before.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said: “The evidence simply isn’t there. The Government has drawn a conclusion based on uncertain studies and that seems a weak basis for an argument.

“Without branding people may be inclined to buy illicit cigarettes from under the counter. With plain packaging you increase the risk to the consumer, you damage business and you fail to treat people like responsible adults.”

There will be queues a mile long in every retail outlet

Conservative MP Priti Patel, who is chair of the Parliamentary Small Shops Group, said: “Independent retailers do a tremendous job preventing underage sales and helping to stop young people from taking up smoking. However, ill-informed policies like standardised packaging will hit retailers hard while fuelling the illicit trade.”

In response, the Department of Health defended Sir Cyril Chantler’s review of standardised packaging which argued plain packaging would be likely to have a modest effect on smoking levels.

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