Pressure on the Government to drop plans for plain packaging of tobacco products has increased as a new survey today shows that most of the region’s petrol forecourt retailers fear it would hit their trade – and betray the Government’s pledge to help small businesses.

The new poll also underlines warnings that banning branded packets would boost the trade in counterfeit cigarettes issued by the UK packaging industry and backed by two Bradford firms.

According to the Petrol Retailers Association findings, 80 per cent of Yorkshire retailers believe the trade in illicit tobacco hurts their business and decreases annual sales revenue, with more than 40 per cent saying that an increase in sales of illicit tobacco products could lead to job losses.

Sixty per cent of respondents said buying counterfeit products was “very or quite easy” and 65 per cent said Trading Standards should be doing more to tackle the problem.

In the week that an independent review into plain packaging is due to report, the Populus poll reveals that 73 per cent of retailers say plain packaging would hurt their businesses, up from 65 per cent last year; 90 per cent believe direct tobacco sales are important to their bottom line, up 11 points from 2013; 79 per cent believe it would cause people to turn to the black market while 89 per cent say that it would make counterfeiting easier Retailers are unanimous in their belief that the Government should fully evaluate the Australian experiment before implementing plain packaging here.”

Mike Ridgway, the Bradford-based spokesman for a packaging industry campaign fighting the threat of plain packs, warned the move would threaten jobs locally and nationally After giving evidence before the Sir Cyril Chantler independent review of public health evidence for standardised tobacco packaging which will report this month, Mr Ridgway warned that the introduction of plain tobacco packaging would have several unintended consequences, notably an increase in the illicit tobacco trade and the associated crimes that go with such illegal activity.

Mr Ridgway, a former executive of packaging companies Weidenhammer and Chesapeake which between them employ about 100 people in Bradford, said the potential loss to the Treasury in tax revenues from counterfeit products would be nearly £3 billion and HM Revenue & Customs figures estimated that 500 million more cigarettes were smuggled into the UK in 2012-13 than the year before, along with 300 more tonnes of hand rolling tobacco Mr Ridgway said: "You can put all the security features you like on legal packs. But, if at the same time we cut criminals' costs by giving them just one pack design to copy rather than 100, then it is criminals that win.

"The packaging industry questions a policy of plain packaging when there are alternative options which have been shown to be effective. For example, in Germany an extensive pro-gramme shows school children around hospitals to meet people and see first-hand the physical effects of smoking.