The Tobacco Alliance has launched a poster initiative as part of its Retailers Against Smuggling campaign.

The poster aims to discourage smokers from buying smuggled tobacco and has been unveiled on two bus shelters in London’s Holloway Road - a spot notorious for illegal sales. Smaller versions will be distributed to thousands of stores over the next fortnight. The poster represents the first time the alliance has directly targeted consumers in its campaign.

National spokesperson for the Alliance Audrey Wales said: “Most shoppers don’t realise that the very act of buying smuggled tobacco is an offence. They also don’t appreciate the effect that purchasing contraband has on retailers.”

The Alliance has also reiterated calls for a change in tobacco taxation following a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) into the performance of HM Revenue and Customs activities. While the report shows that the market share of smuggled tobacco has fallen from 21% in March 2000 to a projected 15% in 2004-05, the Tobacco Alliance is concerned the percentage has not fallen in the past two years.

Wales added: “The fact that the level of tobacco smuggling has remained constant over the past two years suggests that the root cause of the problem is not being tackled.”