CIGARETTES could be sold in plain packaging after ministers said they were "minded" to introduce the measure.

The Department of Health is to launch a consultation on whether tobacco products should be sold in standardised packs after a review concluded the initiative could contribute to a "modest but important reduction" in smoking rates.

The Sir Cyril Chantler review concluded that the measure, which would see cigarettes and other tobacco products put in purposefully drab and unattractive packaging, would contribute to a reduction in the prevalence of smoking.

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He also suggested that branded packs contribute to an increase in tobacco consumption.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all agreed to allow Westminster to legislate on the issue, because of the practicalities involved.

Michael Matheson, Scottish minister for public health, welcomed the move. He added: "I have been consistently clear that there is strong evidence to support the positive impact plain packaging would have."

However, the Scottish Grocers' Federation expressed concern about the remit of the review, saying that it had not considered the impact on businesses.

Chief Executive John Drummond said: "In Scotland we already have highly effective tobacco control measure and levels of smoking among young people are at their lowest ever levels.

"The real smoking-related problems we have are proxy purchases, the illicit trade and health inequality - plain packaging will simply do nothing to address them."