A Tobacco Alliance survey has found that 35% of store owners are aware of fake tobacco products being sold in their area.

This is the first time the alliance, which represents 17,000 independent retailers across the UK through its Retailers Against Smuggling campaign, has included the effects of counterfeit tobacco products on businesses in its research.

The survey also found that 20% of retailers have seen fake tobacco products sold in pubs, clubs or car boot sales, with 8% aware of counterfeits available in shops themselves.

Alliance members are adamant counterfeit goods are on the increase. Spokeswoman Audrey Wales said: “Counterfeit cigarettes are absolutely linked to smuggling and it is definitely a growing problem. Customs have told us that 40% of cigarettes seized are in fact counterfeit.

“If tobacco is 25% or thereabouts of a retailer’s business, then their sales are going to suffer and it could eventually create unemployment.”

She added: “These findings are extremely disturbing and demonstrate how much the comparatively new problem of fake tobacco products is affecting our society.

“Livelihoods of independent shopkeepers like me are already under threat. The availability of counterfeit products will only add to these problems.”

The research also revealed 21% of independent retailers are considering shutting down as a result of tobacco smuggling and that 27% had already been forced to reduced staff.