New Australian research on plain packaging has sparked a fresh clash between the two sides of the tobacco lobby.

The UK government is considering legislation ahead of next May’s General Election. But British American Tobacco (BAT) cited Australian Institute for health and Welfare findings which showed a 32% rise in the proportion of young ­people smoking aged 12 to 17 between 2010 and 2013. This was proof standardised packs had failed in the two years since they had been introduced, BAT said.

But Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said the findings were “not statistically significant.” It also claimed research showing smoking rates for 16 to 24-year-olds had “jumped” from 16.4% in 2012 to 17.8% in 2013 was misleading because of inconsistent methodology.

Pro-industry group Forest said plain packaging was fuelling the black market in Australia. “If alarm bells aren’t ringing in Westminster, they should be,” said director Simon Clark.

A DH spokeswoman said: “We held a consultation on proposals to introduce the regulations and are considering all aspects of policy before making a final decision.”