Plans to ban menthol cigarettes and require anti-smoking warnings to cover 75% of cigarette packets have been criticised by Wirral MEP Paul Nuttall.

Draft EU legislation over cigarette packet branding will enable member states, including Britain, to go even further and also impose plain packaging, completely removing branding.

The idea is to make smoking less attractive to children, who are more likely to buy smaller packets of cigarettes with their pocket money. Youngsters are also more likely to buy flavoured cigarettes such as menthol and strawberry.

The Department of Health in London said ministers were considering the proposals, which will have to be agreed by all Europe’s health ministers before they can go ahead.

The EU wants the new rules to come into force across the continent by 2016.

But UKIP deputy leader Mr Nuttall said: "Those who think it will deter smokers need to think again.

"Research shows that ironically plain packaging is more likely to lead to more tobacco consumption.

"Removing brand imagery leads consumers to shift their preferences away from premium brands towards cheaper alternatives which would make cigarettes more affordable and consumption would rise.

Mr Nuttall continued: "Also plain packaging will be easier to counterfeit and so the black market will increase.

"Menthol cigarette flavouring is lined up to be prohibited and a 'de facto' ban on electronic cigarettes is proposed. They will have to be authorised as 'medicinal products'.

''I find this particularly crazy as e-cigarettes are healthier alternatives to smoking. And, as I have previously said, the European Commission will not stop here, next it will be alcohol and foods."