Introducing plain tobacco packaging will be a gift to cigarette smugglers and counterfeiters who already cost the UK up to £3.1bn a year in lost revenue, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has warned.

In a submission to the Department of Health consultation on its draft regulation on plain packaging, which closes today (7 August), UKIP argued unbranded packets will create new opportunities for illicit traders to sell counterfeit cigarettes.

“Plain packaging will worsen this. Plain packs will be cheaper and easier to fake than branded ones, and plain packaging will also make it more difficult to identify counterfeit product.”

Plain tobacco packaging would also create a precedent for similar treatment of other products in the future, it argued in the submission document. “Once the plain packaging of tobacco has been implemented, then alcohol, fast food and sugary drinks will receive the same treatment in due course, just as surely as night follows day.”

UKIP also accused the government of embarking on a sham consultation despite what it said was a lack of evidence that the measures would have their desired effect of cutting smoking levels.

“There is no empirical evidence in the public domain that suggests that doing so would positively impact public health outcomes.

“This further consultation is merely a fig-leaf, to support a decision that Her Majesty’s Government has already taken and to that extent, may well be considered a nugatory exercise.”