Smoking hasn't been one of the easiest habits to have for a while and people who smoke in the UK may yet be left huffing and puffing further.
Two of the tobacco industry's largest bodies have warned that tobacco might soon be hit by its fourth price hike of 2017 ahead of the Chancellor Phillip Hammond's Autumn Budget this Wednesday.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond. Credit: PA
The average cost of a pack of 20 is currently £9.91 ($13.10) and may be set to soar over the £10 mark, as the government continues its crackdown on the habit.
British American Tobacco, whose brands include Lucky Strikes and Benson & Hedges, has urged the government not to hit cigarettes with another price rise, as has the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA).
The bodies fear that any further hike will leave smokers out of pocket and may even turn them to the black market.
"2017 has already seen smokers hit with a triple whammy of price increases with the March excise increase, the increased cost of minimum pack sizes of 20s and the introduction of the Minimum Excise Tax," Will Hill, a spokesperson for British American Tobacco UK, told the Daily Star.
"These increases added together mean many smokers have seen their out of pocket spend on a pack of cigarettes go up by £1 this year already.
"Yet another excise increase in 2017 could be the straw that breaks the camel's back and forces many smokers into the cheaper-priced black market."
Smokers have been hit by three price rises already this year, two of them "sin taxes" introduced in Hammond's last Spring Budget in March 2017.
The third blow was struck in May when the government banned sales of 10 packs, small bags of rolling tobacco and flavoured cigarettes in a bid to deter younger people from smoking.
The result has been that the average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes has risen by around 35p - quite a hit if you're a nicotine fiend.
The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA) estimates that the average cost was £9.91 as of this March and could now reach as high as £10.26.
According to Hill, the UK has already seen a significant increase in smuggled tobacco products due to the price increases.
The spokesman added that promoting the use of e-cigarettes - widely believed to be less harmful than actual cigarettes - would be a more effective way of reducing smoking in the UK.
"While we understand the Government wants to address the public health impact of tobacco, we believe focusing on more pragmatic approaches such as increasing focus on promoting the use of e-cigarettes would have a greater impact than simply hiking up prices," Hill said.
The problem faced by the UK is that its own tobacco prices, now among the highest in the world, are not matched by those in other EU countries, with smokers easily able to go abroad for a cheaper fix.
Britain's £9.91 average for a pack of 20 is comfortably ahead of EU member states, compared to around £5.12 in Belgium and around £3.93 in Spain.
Whether you find smoking repulsive or an vital part of your work break, that's a high price to pay for a nicotine fix.
Featured Image Credit: PA