David Cameron has said no decision has yet been made on whether to enforce plain packaging on cigarettes and tobacco in the UK.

Responding to a question from a cigarette packaging manufacturer at a meeting in West Yorkshire on Thursday (7 March), Cameron said: “The decision has not been taken. I think we have to accept the links between smoking and health are now proved beyond all peradventure. While some of us might have taken a different view at the time, restrictions on – for instance – smoking in public places have had a pretty dramatic health effect.”

However, the prime minister said that any decision on packaging would have to weigh up the business impact. “I think we have to treat people and businesses fairly and we should properly consider all of the statistics and all of the evidence before making that decision,” he said.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that government was planning to introduce legislation on plain packaging in the Queen’s Speech in May.

Health campaigners say that plain packaging helps discourage uptake of smoking among young people. “Plain cigarette packaging was perceived as unattractive, reduced emotional attachment to the packaging and enforced negative smoking attitudes among young people,” a study in 2012 reported.

Responding to Cameron’s comments on Thursday, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “There is no credible evidence that plain packaging will have any impact on youth smoking rates or encourage existing smokers to quit.

“Legislation must be evidence-based and we hope David Cameron’s comments represent a more pragmatic, less dictatorial approach to policy making.”