Retailers and lobby groups have welcomed the seizure of more than 14 million counterfeit cigarettes in Coventry, but demanded that more be done to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco reaching the UK.
The haul was discovered along with 51kg of hand-rolling tobacco as part of a customs crackdown in the city. The tax evasion on the illegal goods is estimated to be more than £3m.
Campaign group Retailers Against Smuggling welcomed the successful raid, but called for the government to recognise that it was the UK's high tobacco tax policy which made it a target for criminals.
Leicester retailer and national group spokesman Ken Patel told Convenience Store: "We very much welcome the efforts of customs and the work they do to reduce the amount of counterfeit tobacco reaching our streets. However, it still has a long way to go to eradicate the problem and will do until the government accepts that its high tobacco tax policy makes the UK such a target."
Ken also warned that the decision to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco could make the problem worse.
He added: "When the legal age for purchasing tobacco is increased to 18, many more newly disenfranchised 16- and 17-year-olds will turn to the smugglers for their tobacco, who have no qualms about selling illegally to youngsters."
The Association of Convenience Stores also called for duty to be cut. Public affairs manager Shane Brennan added: "The market for illegal tobacco is encouraged by high duty rates, which must be cut. A long-term solution to tackle bootleg traders needs to be found."