With Ireland pushing through plain packaging law, the pressure on the UK to do the same increases, as does the threat to retailers.

One group of health officials have penned a letter to the Government urging ministers to act quickly.

Their call comes in the face of claims emerging from Australia that the introduction of plain packaging has done little to halt smoking – in fact, figures show sales of tobacco have soared since legislation was passed.

Any legislation against plain packaging may have been put on the backburner after the issue didn’t make it into the Queen’s Speech outlining parliamentary plans for the next year.

But some 600 health professionals, including doctors and nurses have signed a letter to the Government calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act now.

Evidence put forward by The Australian newspaper suggested that sales increased by 59 million individual cigarettes in the first full year the country’s plain packaging law was in force. And while it represents a modest 0.3% increase, it was the first rise after four years of successive decline.

Instead it has driven consumers away from packaging-led decisions and more into making decisions based around price – market share of cheaper cigarettes has risen by five points to 37%.

As one Sydney retailer, Harry Nguyen, said: “Because the Government has made cigarettes so expensive, people go for the cheap ones.”