Sales of cigarettes rose by 7% to £12.4billion during lockdown while rolling tobacco sales soared by more than a third, figures reveal

  • Figures come as a shock after an estimated million Brits quit during pandemic 
  • Rise in sales has been attributed to smoking more than usual and boredom 
  • Smoking and Health survey found 27 per cent of smokers were smoking more

Sales of cigarettes rose by seven per cent to £12.4billion during lockdown while those for rolling tobacco soared by more than a third, figures have revealed.  

The shock increase comes as an estimated one million Brits have quit the habit during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rise in sales has been attributed to smokers smoking more than usual and others who had previously given up relapsing either because of stress or boredom. 

Cigarette sales rose by seven per cent during lockdown despite figures showing one million people quit smoking last year. Picture: Stock

Cigarette sales went up 7.3 per cent to £12.4 billion during 2020 while rolling tobacco sales soared by 36.3 per cent from £3bn to almost £4bn possibly because it is a cheaper option for many who already smoke. 

But while some of the increased spend is down to increased government taxes, volume sales also went up by 3.3 per cent for packets of cigarettes and a staggering 30 per cent for tobacco. 

This is even more surprising because, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), campaigns to get people to kick the habit saw one million quit last year, with many concerned about Covid-19 being a respiratory virus that makes it hard to breathe. 

But others have taken up the habit including younger adults who may once have given up but, faced with spending so much time under lockdown restrictions, have resorted to smoking to relieve stress and boredom, said The Grocer. 

In addition, those who smoke and have spent more time at home than in an office or other non-smoking workplace, are puffing on more than usual. 

The Grocer said: ‘Faced with a global pandemic of a disease that attacks the respiratory system, you would expect to see smokers quitting in their droves and a noticeable decline in tobacco sales. 

The increase in cigarette sales could be in some part down to increase in government taxes but has also been attributed to people being bored or stressed in lockdown. Picture: Stock

‘On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to be the case. While for many the coronavirus has been the catalyst to quit or cut down, for others it has led them to smoke more – whether because of increased stress of boredom or more opportunities to smoke with furloughing and increased home working.’ 

A survey by ASH found the 27 per cent of smokers were smoking more compared with 20 per cent who were smoking less. 

ASH policy director, Hazel Cheeseman, told The Grocer: ‘It’s a mixed picture. For many smokers the pandemic prompted a positive change and those who tried to quit have been more likely to succeed. 

‘But for others it appears the additional stress and boredom of the last year is leading to higher levels of smoking and a return to smoking for some who had quit.’ 

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