Everyone knows cigarettes are expensive but I was shocked when I recently bought 20 Embassy for Mr West. They cost £9.99. Wow! And those 20 won’t even last him one day.

Looking at the ugly packaging, I can see why the tobacco manufacturers were battling so hard to maintain their intellectual property rights. I could only tell that I had bought the right fags because Embassy Number 1 Red was written, in small type, in two places on the pack and ironically there was not a trace of red in sight. But what there was, was an awful picture of an adult blowing tobacco smoke into a small child’s face and a message stating ’Your smoke harms your children, family and friends’. Nice. Oh, and there’s a message about getting help to quit at the NHS website.

I’m not sure whether such messaging works. Mr West, for example, has been smoking since he was about 13 and has never tried to give up and has no intention of trying now. It’s a free country, he says, although he adds that he feels something of a pariah at social events as the number of people going outside to smoke has dwindled dramatically and even some of the remaining so-called smokers are actually vaping.

All that said, smokers remain valuable customers to retailers. Yes, their numbers are dwindling but, according to him! research, they typically buy cigarettes/tobacco from the same convenience store outlet 14 times a month. And you can bet they pick up other items too, such as mints and newspapers.

With only plain packs being allowed to be sold from next month, and price-marked packs no longer available, some retailers may be tempted to nudge up their prices. But I’d think twice before doing so. If your loyal tobacco buyers notice a price hike they may decide to take their business elsewhere and is that a risk worth taking? I think a better option, should a customer remark that their favourite smokes are no longer available with a big price flash, is to say ’No, they’re no longer allowed, but don’t worry our prices have stayed the same’. This is an especially good message when shoppers realise they can no longer buy 10s of cigarettes or small packs of tobacco. To be able to say that pro rata the price is the same, is a reassuring and positive message.