Cigarette sales across England dropped by 11.6 per cent in the month following the 1 July ban on smoking in public places, according to a study published yesterday.
The significant fall reflects sales from shops, bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants, according to the market analysts Nielsen, who collected the data.
The figures were in comparison to July last year, when the World Cup was taking place during a heatwave, factors which may have encouraged social smoking and drinking. Sales in August were down by just 2.8 per cent compared with the same month last year.
Deborah Arnott, the director of the anti-smoking campaign Ash, welcomed the news last night but said the Government had to keep up the momentum. "These figures fit with what we've seen happen in other countries when the ban came in there," she said. "Now the work needs to continue; if the Government takes its eye off the ball, rates will go up again." In order to maintain the reduction a range of other measures were also necessary, including tax, media and anti-smuggling strategies, she said.
News of the drop in sales comes as the minimum age at which people can buy cigarettes has been raised from 16 to 18, a move which campaigners believe will provide a further meaningful test of sales trends.
A recent study discovered that exposure to secondhand smoke for people working in bars and clubs had dropped by 95 per cent since the ban. Researchers in Scottish hospitals have also found a 17 per cent drop in the number of people admitted for heart attacks since the ban took effect there in March 2006.