TOBACCO giants including a 1,000-employee Southampton firm plan to appeal after losing a court battle to prevent the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.

A ruling in the case brought by four of the world's biggest firms was given today by Mr Justice Green, who heard the case in December.

British American Tobacco (BAT) along with Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International had challenged the legality of the new ''standardised packaging'' regulations - due to come into tomorrow (Friday) - in a judicial review action.

But Mr Justice Green dismissed all their grounds of challenge.

In a 386-page ruling, the judge said: ''The regulations were lawful when they were promulgated by Parliament and they are lawful now in the light of the most up-to-date evidence.''

Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Tobacco Products Directive, which was adopted in 2014 but has been held up by the challenges, is lawful.

Under the directive, picture health warnings must cover 65 per cent of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with additional warnings on the top of the pack.

It includes a ban on menthol cigarettes and ''lipstick-style'' packs aimed at women and a ban on promotional statements such as ''this product is free of additives'' or ''is less harmful than other brands''.

The directive also allowed the UK to go further and introduce its own regulations requiring all tobacco packaging to be uniformly olive green with large images designed to act as health warnings.

Mr Justice Green stated: “...the essence of the case is about whether it is lawful for states to prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to make profits by using their trademarks and other rights to further what the World Health Organisation describes as a health crisis of epidemic proportions and which imposes an immense clean-up cost on the public purse.''

The quartet of tobacco companies argued the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, would destroy their valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

The firms claimed regulations violate a number of UK and EU laws, and that they are ''disproportionate'' and ''must be quashed''.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) chief executive Deborah Arnott welcomed the decision and said the case should never have been brought.

''Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country's most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy.”

''This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly.''

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: ''Standard packaging is a fabulous result, not just protecting generations to come but also offering a powerful new reason for smokers to quit.''

A BAT spokesperson said: “We believe that the judgment contains a number of fundamental errors of law and we are applying for leave to appeal the decision.

“The judgment, if left to stand, should also raise real concerns for many other legitimate businesses as it creates a worrying precedent whereby public policy concerns can ride roughshod over long established fundamental commercial rights.

“It’s important to appreciate that a UK decision is not a precedent for other governments to introduce plain packaging.

“No two jurisdictions are the same and any government considering plain packaging will need to ensure that it complies with the fundamental rights of businesses relevant to that country, and be mindful of the World Trade Organisation dispute on plain packaging, which is still ongoing.”