Criminals profiting from plain packaging - report

Plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia is playing into the hands of criminals, a recent report claims.

Illicit trade in tobacco products in Australia has increased from 11.8% of total consumption in 2012 to 13.3% the report by KPMG reveals.

KPMG says this represents over $AU1 billion in lost revenue for the Government.

And Imperial Tobacco says the same scenarios could play out in New Zealand if plain packaging is introduced.

"No real effect on smoking rates, but an increase in black market tobacco," spokesperson Brendan Walker said.

Imperial Tobacco also denies plain packaging in Australia is changing people's smoking behaviour.

But a new study shows the introduction of plain packaging appears to have sparked a quick and dramatic increase in people wanting to quit smoking.

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Professor Jane Young from the University of Sydney says calls to the NSW Quitline increased by 78% in the four weeks after the world-leading move in October 2012 before starting to taper off.

"Our study demonstrates real behaviour change following the introduction of plain packaging," she said.

The response was more immediate and lasted longer than the 2006 introduction of graphic health warnings, Ms Young said.

The Cancer Institute of NSW says the impact of plain packaging appears to be significant, immediate and sustained.

"Countries that introduce plain packaging can feel more confident that the policy has the intended effects," chief executive Professor David Currow said.

The study did not show how many people stopped smoking after calling Quitline.

Imperial Tobacco says the company has not seen any decline in volumes in tobacco products manufactured for and sold in Australia.

Mr Walker reports from the Australian Association for Convenience Stores showed the volume of tobacco sold in their members' outlets has not been impacted.

A recent study published by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) found there is as yet no evidence that the change to plain packaging has led people to quit.

New Zealand is considering introducing new laws that will see plain packaging on all tobacco products.Parliament will debate early this year the first reading of the Smokefree Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill.