More than half of UK retailers are aware of the illicit tobacco trade in their neighbourhood.

The Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) surveyed 1,062 UK retailers on the sale of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco and its supply to under 18s and it was revealed that 58% of retailers knew of illicit tobacco sales in their area.

Wales showed the highest level of awareness among retailers with 73%. Northern Ireland followed closely behind with 71%. In London, 50% of retailers were aware of smuggled or counterfeit tobacco in their area. 

The TRA estimates that the black market in smuggled and counterfeit tobacco causes a loss of £8.2m to the Treasury each day.

Whitstable retailer and spokeswoman for the TRA Debbie Corris warned of too good to be true offers on tobacco. “In this economic climate, it’s understandable there’s a temptation to buy tobacco from smugglers who charge half what I charge,” she said. “However, smokers need to know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you buy from smugglers, you don’t know what you’re going to get. The cigarettes may turn out to be fake, have rat droppings or saw dust in them and be pretty unpleasant to smoke. By the time you’ve found that out, your smuggler will have moved on, so the good deal you thought you were getting turns out to be anything but.”

The survey also revealed that one in five UK retailers knew of smugglers supplying illicit tobacco to underage smokers and that half were aware of proxy purchasing taking place in and around their store.