Tobacco manufacturers are being called on to improve the way in which they communicate pack size changes to independent retailers.

The plea comes after one store owner from the Manchester area received a number of customer complaints following BAT’s decision to downsize Rothmans King Size Blue and Rothmans Superkings Menthol from 19 to 18 cigarettes in a pack, while keeping the rrp unchanged at £5.90.

While cigarette numbers are displayed on external packaging, the retailer - who did not wish to be named - claims that he received no notification of the change. “It’s also been months since I last saw a sales rep from BAT, and I buy from three different cash and carries and none of them had any posters or promotional information explaining the change.

“This, combined with the fact that the price point remained the same, meant that I didn’t notice the change and so didn’t update my epos. As a result shoppers’ till receipts were still reading Rothmans King Size Blue 19s when there were only 18 in a pack. It wasn’t long before two shoppers came back and accused me of ripping them off and even threatened to report me to Trading Standards.

“Tobacco manufacturers go to great lengths to tell us when prices rise and should take equal care when pack sizes are reduced. With so many different products, sizes and formats, retailers can’t be expected to notice everything,” he added.

BAT said it was “committed” to informing retailers of any product changes. “Our 151 trade marketing executives have made 12 store visits a day in order to communicate the change,” a spokeswoman said.

“In addition, the change has been communicated through cash and carry posters, along with flyers communicating the change in cash and carries.”