A drop in cigarette sales prompted by England's smoking ban gathered pace at the end of last year. Smokers in Britain bought 47 billion cigarettes in the past 12 months – a year-on-year drop of nearly 4 per cent. Volume sales fell by 6.3 per cent in the three months after the smoking ban came into force in England on 1 July, according to the market analysts Nielsen.
The drop became more acute in the last three months of 2007 with a year-on-year drop of 6.7 per cent.
This compared to a sales decline of just 0.1 per cent year-on-year during the six months before the ban came into force in England, according to Nielsen data for The Grocer.
Smokers spent more money on cigarettes in 2007 than they did the previous year but this was mainly due to higher taxes, the trade magazine says.
Total cigarette sales in Britain in the year to January 26 hit £9.68 billion - up 2.3 per cent on the previous year.
Lambert & Butler is the most popular cigarette brand with sales of £1.36 billion - up 2.5 per cent year-on-year.
Mayfair cigarettes came in second place with value sales increasing 9.8 per cent year-on-year to £663 million.
Marlboro Gold is the third most popular brand by consumer spending with sales of £647 million last year - up 1.8 per cent on the previous 12 months.
A Nielsen spokesman told The Grocer: "Value growth was driven by price and duty increases, while volume sales reflect a market that is coming to terms with an unprecedented year; legislation and the poor summer took sales out of the market."
The true impact of the smoking ban will not become apparent for another few months because sales temporarily lifted over the Christmas period, the spokesman said.
He added: "2008 looks to be a further difficult year for the tobacco industry with the full effects of the smoking ban realised, the forthcoming pictorial health warnings and restriction on selling tobacco to those aged under 18."
The smoking ban came into force in Wales on April 1, 2007 and in England on July 1, 2007. A ban came into force in Scotland in 2006.
Nielsen's data on cigarette sales in the year to January 26, 2008 comes from its Scantrack survey of till sales representing 74,000 outlets around Britain.