Tobacco sales have slumped in the UK since October when the government raised booze cruisers’ tobacco “indicative allowances” to 3,200 cigarettes.

Retailers in both the c-store and wholesaling sectors have reported significant decreases in trade.

Landmark members’ sales of premium brands are also down, as part of an overall decline, after a short-term improvement when the duty paid mark was introduced. A spokesman said: “We were quite pleased six months ago,tobacco sales had risen 15% in the year, but have fallen away since. Sales of premium cigarettes have fallen through the floor.”

The Association of Convenience Stores is preparing to campaign against raised personal allowances in the run-up to the Budget. ACS chief executive David Rae said: “The evidence from our members is that tobacco sales are down year-on-year by 5%.”

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation is planning similar action.

Booker highlighted the issue in its third quarter trading statement, attributing a 6.1% decrease in tobacco sales over the 13 weeks to December 27 to increased consumption of non-duty paid products.

And in the major multiple sector Sainsbury’s weekly sales were down 6.5% on cigarettes, and 12.5% on hand-rolling tobacco, this week compared to mid-September.

Sainsbury category buyer for tobacco Tim Davies said: “The negative trend seems to be intensifying each week, with no respite over Christmas.”

Somerfield has also seen sales drop, down 5.6% year-on-year in December 2002.