With just over two months to go before further tobacco tax hikes are announced in the Budget, the internet is awash with cheap foreign stock being offered for sale at less than half the price charged in UK stores, Convenience Store has learned.

HMRC and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) are endeavouring to tackle the problem, which is currently centring on Polish brands.

TMA tax and information manager Paul Stockall said: "Postings offering legitimate Polish cigarette brands such as L&M and even Marlboro for sale at £30 a carton, as opposed to the £65 that they would sell for in UK stores, are appearing on the internet."

HMRC officials are planning to conduct test purchases to determine if the products are legitimate and smuggled, or counterfeit.

Latest TMA figures suggest that in 2010, non-UK duty paid products accounted for at least 50% of the tobacco market.

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