Selling illicit tobacco is now more profitable than drug smuggling and carries less risks, police say.

An ‘investment’ of £1,000 in distributing illicit tobacco provides a return of at least £40,000, making illicit tobacco twice as profitable as drug smuggling, Police Scotland and HMRC said in a joint presentation to the SGF Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group (CPG) on Independent Convenience Stores.

The CPG meeting, which took place on 24 January,  also heard that the illicit trade is now inextricably linked to serious organised crime and that products ranging from cancer treatment medications, children’s toys and baby milk formula are all now being counterfeited.

Key speaker and new chair of the Scottish Anti Illicit Trade Group, Kenny MacAskill, added: “Make no mistake: illicit trade impacts on every sector of the economy.”

SGF head of public affairs Dr John Lee said: “The CPG meeting brought the issue of illicit trade directly into the Scottish Parliament. The presentation from the enforcement agencies was a frightening insight into the scope and scale of illicit trade.

“We hope this is the beginning of a fuller recognition of the impact on businesses and that illicit trade is a genuinely serious problems that brings crime into our communities.”