A Cancer Research UK-funded study, from researchers at the University of Stirling, found youngsters preferred novelty packaging from leading cigarette manufacturers to plain packs.
The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined the reactions of 1025 UK children aged 11 to 16 who had never tried smoking.
They were given three different types of cigarette packs: regular, novelty and plain, standardised packs. Novelty packs included those with an unusual shape, colour or system of opening, while standardised packs were brown with all branding removed apart from a brand name.
Children preferred the colourful and novelty packs from leading manufacturers. They included Silk Cut Superslim's slim pack shape, the Marlboro Bright Leaf pack which opens at the side in the style of a Zippo lighter, and Pall Mall's bright pink pack.
Children who liked these packs were the same children who said they were more tempted to smoke, the study also found.
Plain, standardised packaging reduced the appeal of smoking to the youngsters.
Professor Gerard Hastings, Cancer Research UK's social marketing expert at the University of Stirling, said: "This research continues to build the case to protect vulnerable children from the might of the tobacco industry's marketing. The UK must follow the lead of Australia and introduce plain, standardised packs as soon as possible."