Cigarette packets with no branding or logos could damage competition and may exacerbate the illicit tobacco market, industry experts have warned.

Their fears follow a government consultation, launched on Saturday, which includes proposals for packs to be plain coloured and to display only the information required by law and health warnings.

A British American Tobacco spokeswoman warned plain packs would "undermine a consumer's ability to clearly choose one brand over a competitor's".

"It will make it even harder to spot fakes, playing into the hands of black market criminals," she said.

Imperial Tobacco UK is also "strongly against" the proposal. "We will always defend our right to differenciate the brand from our competitors," said Iain Watkins, trade communications manager. "Because the packets would be plain they would be extremely easy to counterfeit and that could exacerbate the illicit trade."

Under the recommendations, all tobacco packs would be produced in white or plain cardboard. The brand name would be written in a standard typeface, colour and size, but all other trademarks, logos, colour schemes and graphics would be prohibited.

The consultation paper claims that studies show plain packaging reduces the brand appeal of tobacco products especially among young people. However, Ken Parsons, chief executive of the Rural Shops Alliance warned the measures do nothing to address the "massive illegal market for tobacco in this country".

He added that products hidden away could be counterfeit and tobacco gantries behind the counter are there to be seen by the police, Trading Standards officers and honest customers. "By reducing the perceived difference between counterfeit or smuggled and the legitimate product, it could make the whole tobacco problem a lot worse," he said.