Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has praised Jeremy Hunt for setting a "clear timetable" for introducing standardised plan cigarette packaging.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has backed plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging, saying there is evidence it does help minimise marketing appeal.
Speaking on LBC Radio, Mr Clegg said: "It's not a crime but it's very bad for you, and we should be taking sensible steps to discourage people - particularly kids - from taking up smoking.
He added: "There is evidence, and I think it's been borne out by the latest facts in Australia, that it does help minimise the marketing appeal."
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has hit out at Government plans to introduce standardised plain cigarette packaging, saying it could lead to worse health outcomes than we have now.
Mr Farage accused MPs of attempting to rush the legislation through ahead of the general election and claimed it would be "ineffectual".
This legislation is wrong, not only is it counter to freedom, the basic building block of prosperity, but it is an abuse of Parliamentary process, and most important of all, it is ineffectual and in fact could lead to worse health outcomes than we have now
Tobacco firms have said they are disappointed at Government plans to introduce standardised plain cigarette packaging.
Giles Roca, Director General of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “We are very disappointed with the Government’s decision.
"The evidence from Australia clearly shows that plain packaging doesn’t work, so why are they looking to move ahead with it?
"We hope that when it comes to the vote, MPs will realise that this is simply a flawed policy and vote no to plain packaging.
"Dogma has got in the way of sensible, evidence-based policy making.”
Studies in Australia show the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products in 2012 has helped to deter smoking.Read the full story ›
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association, has welcomed the forthcoming legislation on cigarette packaging and called on the rest of the UK to "follow suit":
It is pleasing to see that the Government has listened to our repeated calls for branding to be removed from tobacco products, and has made the long-awaited and welcome the move to introduce standardised packaging.
We know that children and young people who recognise brand images including packaging, are far more likely to start smoking and become part of the tragic statistics of tobacco harm.
Generic packaging will help to eradicate the marketing power for tobacco companies, and research suggests it will help increase the impact of health warnings.
Smokers in England face buying their cigarettes in plain packets from next year after the Government unexpectedly announced that MPs will get to vote on the legislation before the election.
Instead of company colours and branding, packets will be covered in stark health warnings and disturbing images showing the damage caused by smoking.
The ban on smoking in cars carrying children comes into force on October 1 this year.
ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports.
Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the right-wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, has condemned the Government's announcement on plain packaging for cigarettes.
He said that similar legislation in Australia had led to a growing black market tobacco trade and described the move as "sheer negligence".
This is a gross infringement of the right of companies to use their trademarks and design their own packaging.
There is no need to wonder what will happen next, we need only look at Australia where the black market has grown and youth smoking has risen.
To pursue this grandstanding policy in spite of the Australian experience is sheer negligence.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison has announced that the Government will be bringing forward legislation for standardised packaging on cigarettes before the May general election.
Here are some key elements of the legislation:
- The regulations only apply in England - Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will need to introduce parallel rules to make them operate nationwide
- If agreed by Parliament, the plain packaging will be enforced from May 2016
- MPs are expected to be given a free vote on the issue, which means the regulation should pass despite opposition to plain packaging on the Conservative benches
- The standardised packaging will specify mandatory colours for retail packaging - insisting they must be dull brown outside and white inside
- Only specific text, such as a brand or variant name, will be allowed subject to particular requirement
- Health warnings and marks to prevent counterfeits will continue to be allowed
- The European Tobacco Products Directive will bring in a wider range of measures, including larger picture health warnings and a ban on flavourings
Smoking in private cars carrying children will be banned from October 1 if signed off by Parliament, Health Minister Jane Ellison announced as she outlined the Government's plain packaging legislation.
Ellison said tobacco causes around 80,000 deaths a year and that around 600 children in the UK take up smoking every day.
She said the Government had been taking its time to consider all of the relevant evidence, including the prospect of litigation from the tobacco industry.
We cannot be complacent. We all know the damage smoking does to health.
This Government is completely committed to protecting children from the harm that tobacco causes.
That's why I'm announcing today that we will be bringing forward legislation for standardised packaging before the end of this Parliament.