‘We spend up to £70 on tobacco a week - a price hike would be unfair and completely unnecessary’

‘It’s just for greed’

Smokers in Bristol say a reported £1.15 a pack price hike - the biggest ever - was “unfair on the working class” - and governments should legalise cannabis instead. The price of a 20 pack of cigarettes will rise by £1.15 next month, according to reports, thanks to an expected to raise tobacco duty.

The price of a 30g pack of hand-rolling tobacco could go up by £2 in what would be the biggest increase in the price of cigarettes the UK has ever seen. But smokers said the rise wouldn’t stop them sparking up - and accused the government of “taking advantage”. Others said low income families will now spend money designated for food on fags instead - while some said the rise will just increase illegal tobacco sales.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2021, the proportion of current smokers in the UK was 13.3 per cent, which equates to 6.6 million people.

Gary Cowan, 60, an artist from Bristol, get through a 30g pouch of Golden Virginia a week, and has been smoking for around 25 years. The father-of-four and grandfather-of-five said: “They might as well legalise cannabis - they’d get even more money. They’re grabbing our money - it’s a different world. The government just want to tax everything - they’re tax mad.

“It’s unfair on the working class to knock the price up like that when you know people have got a habit and need the cigarettes - the injustice of it all. They’re going to strip our rights away next.”

Abbey Trent, 20, a trainee carer, from Bristol smokes 30 to 40 Lambert and Butler a day. She said: “The price hike is ridiculous. I can remember when I was in school they used to sell packs of 10 Players for £3.20.

“It’s people’s choice to smoke, but it’s very unfair on people who can’t give it up. I only think it’s unfair because the government says it’s putting prices up to stop smoking but there are loads of vapes which can have an even higher nicotine content.

“The government is just taking advantage of people to make more money.”

Shane, 34 and Meika Knight, 22 say the reported price increase is unfair
Shane, 34 and Meika Knight, 22 say the reported price increase is unfair
Shane, 34 and Meika Knight, 22 say the reported price increase is unfair

Shane Knight, 34, a self-employed handyman and his wife Meika Knight, 22, a warehouse worker, both from Bristol said it was “unfair”. Meika said: “We go in and ask for the cheapest pouch of tobacco. The prices have already gone up so much in recent years.

“I definitely think it’s unfair - it’s just another way to gain more tax by making life harder for us. The government are going to bump up the cost at a time when everything’s already getting really expensive. It seems completely unnecessary.

“It’s just for greed. I don’t want to live in a society where the government is trying to line its own pockets, but unfortunately they are. Putting the price up is only going to make life harder for those in very low income families, who are addicted to smoking and are now going to take money away from their budget for food which they need to feed their kids to afford that extra few pounds because they’re addicted.

“Instead of looking at them as victims of addiction, they view them as another source of income.”

She said her message to the government would be “I hope you’re proud of yourselves.” Shane added: “The original reason they said they were going to put the price up of tobacco was for health, now it’s got nothing to do with that. No one’s not going to buy it because it costs a couple of quid more. They’re still going to buy it.

“More recently I’ve been worried about the cost, so go for the cheapest option. I used to smoke Golden Virginia. We share a pouch and it lasts us about a week. We buy about four a month and it costs around £60-70 a month. If anything it means we’ll just have to buy cheap tobacco on the black market. There are lots of shops you can now get cheaper tobacco under the counter.”