Smoking patterns in Great Britain: the rise of cheap cigarette brands and roll your own (RYO) tobacco

J Public Health (Oxf). 2015 Mar;37(1):78-88. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdu048. Epub 2014 Aug 11.


Background: In Britain, the tobacco industry segments cigarettes into four price categories-premium, mid-price, economy and ultra-low-price (ULP). Our previous work shows that tobacco companies have kept ULP prices stable in real terms. Roll your own (RYO) tobacco remains cheaper still.

Methods: Analysis of 2001-08 General Household Survey data to examine trends in use of these cheap products and, using logistic regression, the profile of users of these products.

Results: Among smokers, the proportion using cheap products (economy, ULP and RYO combined) increased significantly in almost all age groups and geographic areas. Increases were most marked in under 24 year olds, 76% of whom smoked cheap cigarettes by 2008. All cheap products were more commonly used in lower socio-economic groups. Men and younger smokers were more likely to smoke RYO while women smoked economy brands. Smokers outside London and the South East of England were more likely to smoke some form of cheap tobacco even once socio-economic differences were accounted for.

Conclusions: This paper demonstrates that cheap tobacco use is increasing among young and disadvantaged smokers compromising declines in population smoking prevalence. Thus, tobacco industry pricing appears to play a key role in explaining smoking patterns and inequalities in smoking.

Keywords: Great Britain; RYO; cheap cigarettes; inequalities; tobacco pricing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / trends*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tobacco Products / classification*
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tobacco Use / trends*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult