Convenience Store has discovered clear evidence of illicit tobacco sales being made via popular social media sites such as Facebook.

One Facebook page, which has almost 1,000 ‘likes’, features the dealer’s phone number and encouraged people to text or message should they want to buy 50g packs of Golden Virginia or Amber Leaf rolling tobacco for £6.

Such activity was undercutting legitimate stores and must be stopped, said retailer and Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance national spokeswoman Debbie Corris. “These sellers clearly don’t worry about the age of their customers. Legitimate retailers are having to go dark supposedly to stop young people taking up smoking. What’s the point when they can get it through Facebook?”

Premier retailer Linda Williams also called for robust action. “The authorities should be focusing more of their energies on this emerging threat and stop hampering responsible retailers with legislation.”

JTI head of communications Jeremy Blackburn said the company was “extremely concerned”. “About one in every three cigarettes smoked in the UK avoids duty, and criminals are using many methods to sell their goods, including the internet and social media.”

Imperial Tobacco urged those who came across illicit tobacco on the internet to call the Customs Hotline: 0800 595000.

C-Store contacted Facebook and HMRC, but they declined to comment.