The Government has approved the publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, which will see the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products.

Minister for Health James Reilly said: "This represents a significant step forward in our tobacco control policy and our goal of being a smoke-free country by 2025."

If enacted, the bill will control the design and appearance of tobacco products.

It will remove all forms of branding including trademarks, logo, colours and graphics from packs, except for the brand and variant name, which will be presented in a uniform typeface.

The aim of the bill is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers and to make health warnings more prominent.

Ireland is the first country in the European Union to introduce such legislation.

Australia introduced plain packaging legislation in November 2011, while similar legislation is also making its way through the New Zealand parliament.

The move has been welcomed by a number of groups, including the Irish Cancer Society and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

However, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents of Ireland has criticised Mr Reilly for introducing the legislation, saying that plain packaging only serves to fuel illicit trade.