Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris Limited (PML) is attempting to stub out the illicit tobacco trade with a new educational programme for independent retailers.

The scheme is being piloted in Manchester which PML has identified as an illicit trade hotbed.

During a recent three-day test purchasing sting carried out by the manufacturer, 32 separate purchases of illicit tobacco were made - more than in any other test purchase location this year to date.  

PML’s illicit trade expert Will O’Reilly said: “We found illicit cigarettes easy to obtain in Manchester.  Contraband cigarettes are smuggled illegally into the country with unpaid duty and VAT.  Once here they are sold cheaply in shops and pubs, including to children. The Treasury is losing billions of pounds a year and the problem is growing because organised criminals are moving away from more dangerous activities like drug smuggling, to tobacco where there is more profit.”   

The new scheme will see members of PML’s newly created National Field Force educate retailers about  the dangers and impacts of the illicit trade and how to report it.

More than 250 independent retailers in the Manchester area will receive visits over the next three months.

Supported by HMRC and Crimestoppers, the campaign will also champion retailers as responsible sellers.