Over one-quarter of the tobacco smoked across the country is non-UK duty paid (NUKDP), latest estimates from JTI reveal.  

The latest figures do in fact represent a decline in illicit sales, although further tax increases in next month’s Budget could undermine this progress, JTI warned.

Its survey also revealed some striking regional variations. At 36% the North of England has the highest non-UK duty paid consumption, while Scotland has the lowest.

“Criminal gangs would welcome another boost to their ill-gotten profits and with many cigarette packs sold in the UK now more than £7, a fourth tax increase in two years will help them market their fakes to even more customers, including children,” JTI managing director Martin Southgate said.

“There is a tobacco display ban on the horizon and a consultation planned for the spring to discuss options to introduce uniform packaging, increasing the tax just doesn’t make any sense. Why make it easier for criminals to make money? The government should be helping us to eradicate this crime by using their powers to seize the profits made by these criminals and put them in jail for a length of time that befits this serious crime,” he added.