The category has barely dropped in value over the past 12 months, falling just 0.1% compared to 1.3% the previous year.

Budget lines continue to grow the category as smokers opt for value in a sector increasingly hit by price hikes. Brands that sit under the price point of £5 per pack of 20 cigarettes continue to draw in consumers, while those with premium price points are looking at alternative ways to maintain their consumer base.

There have been a number of brand extensions, including Gallaher's launch of 14 cigarette packs for its Camel and Benson & Hedges brands, and the launch of Camel Natural Flavour in filter and subtle variants.

It was the budget lines, however, that made their mark last year. Sales of Richmond, owned by Imperial Tobacco, grew by 8.1%, while those of Mayfair - owned by rival Gallaher - grew 2.9% .

The biggest growth of the top 20 cigarette brands was recorded by Gallaher's Benson & Hedges Silver. Sales for the brand, which sits in 13th place, rose by 46.5% in the past year. The company attributes this to the popularity of its limited-edition Silver Slide pack, which has been heralded by supermarket tobacco buyers as a key innovation in this challenging market.

"The long-term trends of the tobacco market continue with value-for-money brands (such as Sterling and Windsor Blue) gaining wider distribution and therefore increasing their market share," says a spokesman from ACNielsen. "While this appears to be slowing the rate of decline, evidence suggests many smokers are moving towards roll-your-own offerings. By far the greatest pressure comes from the smoking ban legislation."