Premium features have become a major decision maker in the purchasing habits of smokers who buy cigarettes at a budget pricepoint, RN has been told.

Imperial Tobacco, the company behind Lambert & Butler and Rizla, said legislation and rising duty mean 80% of shoppers now cite quality as a priority. The company’s brand manager Thomas Gully told RN: “The feeling we get from customers is there is a lack of premium features within the £8 price range.

“The £8 RRP for a pack of 20 isn’t cheap and the recent legislation changes and rising duty means customers need a way of justifying the price,” said Mr Gully.

The advice comes as Imperial gets set to launch three updates to its John Player & Sons range in January. Major features to the £8.30 packs of 20 include filters designed to be more durable, deliver a smoother taste and create less smoke.  

Ramsey Hasaballa, of Premier Speke in Liverpool, said: “More than 60% of my cigarette sales come from the £8 range. Customers have less income, so this area will of course be the most popular, but they do often ask if they have features available in more premium products.

“I welcome budget cigarettes with more premium features as it means I’ll lose less footfall to illicit traders.”

Ken Singh, of Mill Hill Stores in Pontefract, added: “Half of my total tobacco sales are from the £8 mark whereas anything above £10 only contributes 10%. We had to discontinue some lines because they weren’t selling.

“Having more features like better filters in this range offer more value. It means myself and other honest and hardworking retailers will lose fewer customers to illegal tobacco trading.”