Updated: 08:05, Friday November 29, 2013
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg says the British government will likely introduce plain packaging for cigarettes after reviewing how the policy impacted on smoking rates in Australia.
England could follow Canberra's lead by 2015 after the conservative government backflipped on a controversial decision earlier this year to walk away from a planned ban on branding.
At the time the Labour opposition criticised the Tories for shelving plain packaging after hiring Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby, whose consultancy firm had previously worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris.
Mr Crosby denied ever having lobbied Prime Minister David Cameron 'on the issue of tobacco or plain packaging of cigarettes'.
Mr Clegg on Thursday said evidence already in suggested the 'glamour' associated with glossy cigarette packs did encourage young people to smoke.
'If the evidence shows, as the emerging evidence appears to show, that this (plain packaging) would make a difference then we as a government of course will take that step,' the Liberal Democrat told London radio.
Distinguished paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler will conduct a review of the evidence, including the impact of plain packaging in Australia, and report to government by March.
UK Health Minister Jane Ellison committed the government to introducing standardised tobacco packaging following the review 'if we are satisfied there are sufficient grounds to proceed'.
The Tories' change of mind comes after a cross-party group of peers tabled amendments in the House of Lords that would have allowed plain packaging.
Labour leader Ed Miliband used Thursday's news to renew his attack on Mr Crosby, who is being paid $A853,000 to work full-time on the Tories' 2015 election campaign.
'The government should have legislated on plain packaging earlier this year and they didn't because they were pushed around by the tobacco lobby,' the opposition leader said.
Former Liberal Democrat health minister Paul Burstow, who was in the job until late 2012, also believes the government's mid-year wavering was down to Mr Crosby's influence.
'The reason this has been delayed so far has been the influence of the tobacco lobby and perhaps the influence of Lynton Crosby as well,' he told Sky News.
Some 100,000 people in the UK die each year as a result of smoking-related diseases.