Government pushes ahead with controversial plans for plain cigarette packaging

Ministers actually announced another consultation today - yet another into the impact of forcing tobacco firms to remove their branding from their packets.

But this consultation, says the Department of Health, is a short one.

Six hundred children take up smoking each day, research indicates. Credit: ITV News

It means the Government is now set on a path which will give MPs a vote on this controversial step in public health.

If it carries through to law, shops in England (the matter is devolved elsewhere) may have to sell cigarettes in "standardised packaging" such as that seen below.

That means no branding. No logos. And a size of packet determined by regulators.

Some examples of standardised cigarette packs used in Australia. Credit: Ella Pickover/PA Wire

It would be like putting "brown paper bags" over alcohol, one Tory MP complained in the Commons.

Others jeered their own minister - and cried "shame" as the measures were announced.

It's not popular with Tory MPs who claim it's a nanny state-like decision that erodes personal freedom and choice while having little impact on public health.

One, Sir Gerald Howarth, told me it should be "up to parents to have parental responsibility":

Nonetheless, the the numbers are alarming. 600 children a day - or 200,000 every year - start to smoke between the ages of 11 and 15.

And ministers have been swayed by an estimate that two per cent fewer will take up smoking if cigarettes are sold in unbranded packets. That would amount to 4,000 fewer children starting to smoke ever year

Jane Ellison, the public health minister who was heckled in the Commons over today's announcement, says she is "unapologetic" about the Government's efforts to reduce child smokers:

Despite today's announcement, concerns remain over counterfeiting, over job losses and over the survival of small shops.

Nonetheless, the government finally seems to have made up its mind that stopping children getting addicted to smoking simply outweighs everything else.