Oxfordshire health bosses have been accused of pandering to the ‘nanny state’ by backing plans to sell cigarettes in unbranded packets.

NHS Oxfordshire, the county’s primary care trust, will be drumming up support for tobacco to be sold in green packets, in the city centre tomorrow.

The Government claims the non branded packs, which have been designed in an ‘unattractive olive green colour’, will deter children from smoking.

They could contain warning messages and images.

But Peter Wiblin, of West End News, in Bury Street, Abingdon, said the move will not work and instead force smokers underground.

He said: “It should not be up to the Government to dictate to the general public how to live their lives.

“It is typical of a load of goody gooders in favour of the nanny state.”

Mr Wiblin said the Government was already in the process of making shopkeepers cover up tobacco products behind white shutters so the public can not be tempted to buy them.

He claims the rules and regulations will kill the independent shop trader.

He said: “It’s a typical example of these people thinking they know what is best for us.

“Look at what the smoking ban did to the pubs.

“We have destroyed pubs, post offices, and now we are going to destroy the independent shopkeepers.”

Oxfordshire’s director of Public Health, Jonathan McWilliam, said the idea would be put to the public by representatives from NHS Oxfordshire in the city centre on Saturday.

He said: “The idea behind this proposal is to stop packaging itself acting as an advert to youngsters, tempting them into a highly-addictive habit that could seriously damage their health and lead to an early death.

“We urge people to participate in the consultation and make their views about plain packaging heard.”

The Government claim that the new legislation will help to discourage children from smoking by making tobacco packaging look less attractive.

The olive green colour has been picked because it is the least attractive, and officials also believe the plain packets will stop cigarette manufacturers creating false beliefs that some cigarettes are less harmful than others.

Dr McWilliam said brands which are marketed in shiny packs or as ‘super slims’ are particularly attractive to young women.

By introducing plain packaging, the health warnings will become bigger and more eye-catching against a plain background, he said.

Dr McWilliam added: “Quitting smoking is the single most important thing that smokers can do to improve their health.

“There are approximately 100,000 smokers in Oxfordshire and our view is that any sensible measure discouraging people is worthwhile for their health and that of those close to them.”

The Government’s consultation closes on 10 July.