An undercover operation has exposed the prevalence of illicit tobacco in South Wales, with a third (32%) of stores visited found to be selling it.

Mystery shoppers in Cardiff and Newport were able to buy illicit tobacco in 20 of the 63 stores they visited.

Of the stores, 12 sold counterfeit roll your own (RYO) tobacco in 50g packs, priced at around £5, compared to around £21 for a legitimate pouch.

A further eight stores sold smuggled RYO in 50g packs for around £14.00.

Additional consumer research with 1,000 Welsh smokers conducted as part of JTI’s ongoing Don’t Be Complicit in Illicit campaign, also found that one in two smokers (48%) had been offered illicit tobacco in the last 12 months.

Well over half (61%) of smokers also said they would not report illicit tobacco being sold.

Only 35% of respondents said they were concerned that they might be funding organised criminal gangs, and just 20% were concerned that they might be damaging legitimate retailers.

Steve Wilkins, JTI’s anti-illegal trade operations director and former detective chief superintendent at Dyfed Powys Police, said: “The vast majority of retailers are the ‘Gatekeepers’ for age-restricted products and they help to ensure that children do not get hold of tobacco products.

“Unfortunately, the criminals who sell illegal tobacco within our communities do not operate a ‘No ID No Sale’ policy and will sell to all-comers, including children. Illegal tobacco is damaging our local community, funding organised crime and undermining local businesses.

“We all have a role to play to combat the issue and JTI calls on retailers and members of the public to join our Don’t Be Complicit In Illicit campaign and help rid the streets of illegal tobacco.”

Anyone with information about this type of crime should visit or contact HMRC’s Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The UK government estimates that illicit tobacco makes up around 15% of the cigarette market and 28% of the hand rolling tobacco market in the UK.

This has resulted in £2.5bn of lost tax revenue in 2016/17, with a total revenue loss of £43.5bn since 2000.