Health campaigners have condemned reports suggesting that the Prime Minister has scrapped plans to introduce standardised cigarette packs.
Officials have been weighing up the move for over a year and it was widely expected for the initiative to be announced during next week's Queen's speech.
But reports suggest that David Cameron has ordered the proposed law to be pulled from the speech on May 8.
A Whitehall source told The Sun: "Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it's nothing to do with the Government's key purpose. The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters' essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform."
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "For a Whitehall source to say that improving public health and reducing premature mortality is no longer one of the Government's key purposes is shocking.
"Smoking remains the major preventable cause of death and disability and measures to reduce smoking prevalence are popular and effective. Over 60% of the public support standard packaging for cigarette packs. It will take a lot of explanation if this crucial public health measure is not included in the Queen's speech on 8 May."
Last April, the Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce mandatory standardised packaging for tobacco products. Health experts have welcomed the proposal, but opponents claimed it would lead to increased smuggling and job losses.
Information generated by the consultation, which closed in August, is still being analysed by health officials.
In December, Australia became the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in uniform packs. Cigarette packets and other products are all sold in a standardised colour, with only the brand name and graphic warnings visible.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, added: "The time has surely now come for the UK Government to stop dithering on this issue and follow the example set by their Scottish counterparts. Using expensively-designed packaging to sell cigarettes to young people is wrong and should be stopped."