Nearly a quarter of retailers have had tobacco products stolen from their stores in the past 12 months, according to a new poll.

Figures from a Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) survey of 257 retailers have revealed that 17% of retailers have had stock stolen from the shop floor, while 5% have had it taken from their stock rooms.

Costcutter’s Donington store in the East Midlands was raided for the third time in three years in May, losing thousands of pounds-worth 
of cigarettes and rolling tobacco as a result.

Senior supervisor Ashley Anderson blamed the high price of legitimate product for fuelling the crime.

“In just two minutes they had smashed through the doors and escaped with pretty much the entire contents of the gantry, which they doubtless then sold on the black market for a nice profit,” he told Convenience Store.

Earlier this month thieves in Southampton forced their way in through the front door of Premier Park Road, Shirley, before stealing cigarettes and tobacco from the gantry. It follows a raid on Hollyoak Stores in Coxford, Southampton, in April, when thieves stole £5,000-worth of tobacco after breaking in.

In January, Hampshire police launched Operation Drench to combat the rising number of raids at shops and convenience stores, having recorded 26 such crimes related to cigarette thefts in just two months. The average ram raid incurs £12,000-worth of damage to a building, and thieves tend to take about £1,500-worth of tobacco, according to specialist insurance broker Bluefin.

These figures could be reduced with the advent of the display ban, when single dispense units and shutters could help deter thieves, it claims.

However, the TRA believes that in conjunction with plain packaging, the display ban could boost theft in other categories as retailers spend more time with their backs turned.