A tobacco chain's plan to give smokers free cardboard covers to hide plain packets and graphic health warnings could be stubbed out under WA's tough anti-tobacco laws.

Health officials are investigating the Tobacco Station Group, which has more than 300 Australian franchises, including in WA, over so-called ciggie sleeves. The company says the cover "oozes retro sophistication" and lets smokers "show their individuality".

No brand names or logos are on the cover, which slides over the box and leaves the flip top exposed.

A TSG spokeswoman said the company believed the sleeves complied with plain packaging laws introduced last month but declined to say whether they met State laws, which regulate tobacco sales.

She said the sleeves would be available free.

"It is entirely up to the consumer after the sale to decide if they would like to take a case," she said.

Under Federal plain packaging laws, retailers can sell or give away cases, slips and stickers, provided they do not have tobacco branding or advertising.

It is illegal to cover the health warnings but the smoker can do that after buying the packet.

There is no ban in WA on selling cases but retailers can be fined up to $80,000 if they give smokers gifts or prizes for buying tobacco.

A WA Health spokesman said the department would assess a sample sleeve and was working with its Federal counterpart to determine whether they broke State laws.

WA anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube said he believed the sleeves were illegal.

"If the sales outlets are getting this desperate, it is very encouraging evidence that plain packaging is having an impact," he said.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Government would take legal action against companies that deliberately circumvented plain packaging laws.

She said 14 complaints had been made about retailers - most small shopkeepers - selling branded cigarettes since plain packaging became law on December 1.

The West Australian

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