Most mothers and grandmothers believe bright, colourful packaging makes tobacco more appealing to children, a poll suggests.
The survey, of more than 2,000 women for Cancer Research UK, found eight out of 10 thought bright packaging was attractive to youngsters while 85% said children should not be exposed to any tobacco marketing at all. The Government has put plans to introduce plain packaging on hold, saying it wants to gather more evidence first. A decision has been delayed so more time can be spent examining how a similar scheme has worked in Australia.
Health minister Anna Soubry said in July she "would never give in to pressure". Labour accused the Government of "caving in to big business". Under the plans, tobacco packs would all be the same colour and would carry a prominent, graphic warning about the dangers of smoking.
The survey of mothers and grandmothers of children under 18 found 92% would be worried about their children if they became addicted to smoking under age.
Cancer Research UK is running a campaign to remove all "attractive and stylish" branding from packaging and increase the number of picture health warnings about the effects of smoking. More than 200,000 children take up smoking every year, with more girls smoking regularly than boys, figures show.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco control, said: "Smoking causes more than eight out of 10 cases of lung cancer, and over 100,000 tobacco-related deaths every year. We also know that starting smoking at a young age greatly increases your risk of lung cancer which is why the majority of mums and grans believe no child should be exposed to tobacco advertising.
"We're urging the Government to introduce plain, standardised packaging of tobacco, which, as well as being a popular move, would show that the Government cares more about the health of future generations than the profits of the tobacco industry. We'd like to see the Government protect children from the lure of sophisticated tobacco industry marketing and introduce plain, standardised packaging as a way to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking."
Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "There is no credible evidence that children start smoking because of cigarette packaging. Teenagers are influenced primarily by their peers and family members. The introduction of plain packaging could fuel the black market and that would be far worse for children because criminal gangs don't care who they sell to.
"The Government has rightly decided to wait until hard evidence is available that supports plain packaging. To its credit, it has also taken into account the views of hundreds of thousands of people who responded to the public consultation on standardised packaging. A huge majority were against the policy, and with good reason."
Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at Action on Smoking and Health, said: "Mums and grans understandably want to protect children from the tobacco industry. The evidence is clear: since the ban on tobacco advertising smoking rates among children have halved. Removing the promotional elements from tobacco packaging will help finish the job and further reduce take-up of smoking by children."