Tobacco manufacturers are continuing to invest in smaller pack sizes despite the looming threat of a ban on packs of 10 cigarettes and roll your own (RYO) in packs of less than 20g.
Plans to ban small packs are contained in the EU Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD) which is now approaching the end of its lengthy progress through the EU parliament, with an announcement expected imminently.
Despite the threat, Imperial Tobacco has just invested in the launch of a new 9g pack format of its Gold Leaf RYO brand.
Complete with papers, Gold Leaf 9g enables adult smokers to make 22 hand-rolled cigarettes for less than £3, a move which Imperial claims could help to counter the growing illicit tobacco trade.
According to Imperial, sales of sub 12.5g pack sizes of RYO tobacco have more than doubled over the past year as increasing numbers of tobacco shoppers buy smaller formats as a way of managing their budgets.
“Of course we have EUTPD at the back of our minds but for now it’s business as usual as there is huge demand amongst adult smokers for smaller pack sizes,” Imperial’s UK communications manager Gayatri Barua-Howe said.
JTI also launched new three-in-one packs of Amber Leaf, which contain 10g of rolling tobacco plus medium-weight papers and filters, this autumn.
According to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) a third of the UK cigarette market is currently sold in packs of less than 20 cigarettes, and 77% of the UK hand-rolling tobacco market is sold in quantities of less than 40g.
A ban on these smaller packs would “limit consumer choice and devastate thousands of hardworking shopkeepers,” MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group Priti Patel said.
“This Directive will push prices up and will benefit criminals and smugglers at the expense of small and independent retailers,” she added.