Experts have dismissed a tobacco industry report linking a small increase in cigarette sales to the introduction of plain packaging laws.
Anti-smoking advocates said it was too early to tell what the impact of the tough new laws had been, saying the industry's figures were a ''typical distortion of unsubstantiated data''.
The comments were in reaction to a front page story in The Australian on Friday that said tobacco sales increased by 59 million cigarettes in the first full year after the laws came into effect.
According to data analysis firm InfoView, which was commissioned by British American Tobacco, the 0.3 per cent bucked a four-year decline in cigarette sales prior to stricter packaging laws being introduced.
Critics said the industry had a long history of releasing misleading data, had refused to release the full report and that it was too early to gauge the policy's impact.
Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said the research was ''shonky and appalling'', and seemed to assume that the impact of plain packaging laws would be seen overnight. ''The information provided in this report runs contrary to other information coming from the tobacco industry and from official government reports, showing a decline in cigarette sales,'' he said.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows consumption has been on a downward trend over the past decade, with spending in the March 2014 quarter hitting record lows. British American Tobacco spokesman Scott McIntyre said he could not release the report because it was ''very commercially sensitive''.