A new petition calling for tougher penalties to be levelled against illicit tobacco traders has been posted on HM government website.

More than 100 people have already signed the ‘Stub out illegal tobacco trade’ petition which was launched by The Lancashire Evening Post.

The newspaper claims that the illicit tobacco trade is fuelling crime in Lancashire’s communities and beyond, and damaging the livelihoods of independent retailers.

Supported by Lancashire Trading Standards, Crimestoppers, Preston City Council and the tobacco industry amongst others, it calls for the penalties for illicit tobacco offences to be brought in line with drugs offences.

“We ask the government to recognise that the profits made by criminals in tobacco smuggling/selling cases are often much more than those made from drugs, with less serious consequences for the criminal. This needs to change,” it says.

More than 100,000 signatures are needed by March 19, to ensure the matter is brought to the attention of parliament.

Welcoming the launch, JTI’s head of communications Jeremy Blackburn said: “The impact of the illicit trade in tobacco on society is far reaching and members of the public, retailers, suppliers and the government all have a role to play to combat the issue.

“I congratulate The Lancashire Evening Post for their campaign to eradicate this scourge from the local community and encourage readers of Convenience Store to sign the petition.”

To sign the e-petition visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43213