Gruesome images highlighting the harmful effects of smoking will be printed on all cigarette packets sold in the UK from next year, the government said today.

The graphic images, which include pictures of diseased lungs, must be printed on all tobacco products made in the UK by the end of 2009, under the new regulations.

After public consultation 15 images have been chosen to accompany text warnings about smoking related diseases, including lung cancer and heart disease.

The charity Cancer Research UK estimates the images could help an additional 10,000 smokers in England to quit. But smokers' lobby group Forest said they were being "victimised".

The health secretary, Alan Johnson, denied that smokers were being "demonised". He said the graphic images were necessary because of the diminishing impact of written warnings on tobacco products.

Mr Johnson told GMTV: "We've had the messages on cigarette packets since 2003, warning that smoking kills, for instance. The evidence is that's very effective, but it's diminishing in its effect.

"Using graphic images to get the same message across - that smoking kills, that people who smoke will die younger, that smoking actually makes your skin age - these are important messages, and if you can introduce graphics into it as well it has a more dramatic effect."

The chief medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, added: "This will help promote better awareness of the damage that smoking does to lives and families, an essential step towards reducing the number of people who start smoking."

Cigarette packs that only feature written warnings will not be allowed on sale in the UK after September 30 next year. For other tobacco products the deadline is September 30, 2009.

Canada was the first country to put visual warnings on cigarettes in 2000. More than 70% of adults and nearly 90% of youths in Canada believe the images are effective, according to the Department of Health.

A poll of Canadian smokers found that more than half said they smoked less around other people as a result of the graphic images.

In Singapore, where the graphic images were introduced in 2004, a quarter of smokers felt motivated to quit. Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research UK, said one study found that 33% of Canadian smokers said they were more likely to quit as a result of seeing the images.

He said that taking into account wishful thinking on the part of smokers wanting to quit, his estimate was that 1 in 1,000 smokers would quit as a result of similar measures in the UK.

"That wouldn't even show as a blip on the official statistics but it equates to around 10,000 people in England alone. That's quite a lot of lives saved," Prof West said.