Britain announced an independent review of tobacco packaging on Thursday and said it was ready to introduce new laws banning branding on cigarette packets if the report found sufficient evidence to support it.

The British government, which in July delayed a decision on the issue, said the review was due to report back in March 2014 and would look into whether standardized packaging is likely to have an effect on public health, particularly in relation to children.

Plain cigarette packaging

Australia's plain cigarette packaging is stripped of all logos and instead packages have graphic images. (Australian government/Reuters)

The long-standing debate on the issue pits health campaigners, who back the move, against big tobacco firms which say it would put jobs at risk and encourage smuggling.

In Britain, the subject has also prompted criticism from the opposition Labour party over the extent to which the tobacco industry is able to influence government policy.

After a lengthy public consultation, British Prime Minister David Cameron in July delayed a move to force manufacturers to sell tobacco in plain packets, saying he wanted to see more evidence from other countries on the effectiveness of such a move.

Almost exactly a year ago, Australia passed a law saying cigarettes must be sold in dark brown packets with no colours or logos, with the name of the product printed in a standardized small font.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the Dutch Health Ministry sounded an early warning about the possible health risks of electronic cigarettes, announcing plans to clamp down on labelling ahead of European regulations.

A leading Dutch government health advisory body pointed to a lack of evidence on the possible health effects of e-cigarettes, and said that as a precaution, they should not be used by pregnant women or in the vicinity of children.

New York City is weighing a bill to limit use of electronic cigarettes in public places, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

With files from Reuters