(Updates with more quotes, details)
LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it was minded to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain standardised packaging and would hold a short consultation on the issue which could result in new regulations entering into force before May 2015.
Jane Ellison, a minister in Britain's Department of Health, cited what she called a "compelling" review commissioned by the government which she said had shown plain packaging would improve public health and cut the number of child smokers.
"In light of this report and the responses to the previous consultation in 2012 I am therefore currently minded to proceed with introducing regulations to provide for standardised packaging," Ellison told parliament.
"In order to ensure that that decision is properly and fully informed, I intend to publish the draft regulation so it is crystal clear what is intended alongside a final short consultation".
Tobacco firms oppose the move, saying it would encourage counterfeiting and smuggling and have little effect on smoking rates. Britain's tobacco market is worth about $28 billion a year at retail according to Euromonitor International.
Shares in the two big London-listed tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco slipped slightly on the news, with both dropping by about half a percent on the government statement. (Reporting by William James; Additional reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Andrew Osborn)