Scientists at the University of Bath’s UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies are calling for the creation of a tobacco industry regulator.

The ‘Ofsmoke’ agency could increase tax revenue, set maximum prices for cigarettes and keep a lid on the tobacco manufacturers’ profits, the group said.

The measures could fund further anti-smuggling projects and provide a boost to NHS stop smoking services, it added.

“The market has failed to curb cigarette manufacturers in terms of pricing power and profit, and tobacco control policies have unintentionally exacerbated the problem,” the centre’s Dr Robert Branston said. “Clamping down on the extreme profitability of cigarettes would reduce the incentive for tobacco companies to fight public health measures, and mean they have fewer funds at their disposal.”

Responding to the proposals, Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco said tax accounted for up to 90% of the price of its UK cigarette brands.

“Imperial generates more than £6bn in revenue for the Treasury each year in taxes,” Imperial Tobacco group press officer Simon Evans said. “The reality is that it’s also a fiercely competitive industry, particularly when you consider the challenge posed by the high incidence of cheap illicit tobacco products on our streets - something that’s directly caused by excessive taxation. Of course, tobacco is controversial but we operate our business responsibly and make a significant contribution to society,” he added.