Imperial to freeze budget brand prices

Imperial Tobacco is to maintain the current price of its budget tobacco brands, such as Lambert & Butler and John Player Special, in the face of an increase in tobacco excise duty which will come into force next month.

The company has announced its new prices, which take increases in excise duty for tobacco into account. The excise duty, which equates to a 20p increase on the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes, was deferred by the chancellor until December 1.

While increases on premium priced brands are will come into play from that date, increases for Imperial’s value brands are expected to be delayed until February.

Packets of Lambert & Butler and JPS will be marked with the existing price of 2.99.

A tobacco industry insider says: “Manufacturers try to improve their market share every time consumers are forced to re-appraise their brand choice because of price increases.”

Imperial’s rival Gallaher has yet to announce its new prices, but in previous years the company has kept the cost of its budget brands Sovereign and Mayfair at the same level for a limited period.

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