The consequences of straying from legitimate supply routes were brought into sharp focus for a number of retailers last month, as Trading Standards teams and HM Revenue and Customs continued their assault on the black market tobacco trade.

In Nottingham, one operation led to the seizure of 3,600 counterfeit cigarettes and 30kg of rolling tobacco from a newsagent. A further stash of illegal tobacco products used to supply the store were also found at a nearby home. The individuals are awaiting sentencing.

Last month three prolific tobacco smugglers who were caught attempting to smuggle 35 million cigarettes into the West Midlands were sentenced to a total of 41 years in jail.

Lorraine Raynor, head of trading standards for community protection, said better partnership working was boosting seizure rates. Recently introduced anti-counterfeit technology, which enables the authorities to tell immediately whether a tobacco product is genuine, and additional government funding to tackle tax evasion, were also helping.

Federation of Wholesale Distributors chief executive James Bielby said retailers should think twice before straying from their usual wholesale partners, or be prepared for the consequences.

Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA) chief executive Christopher Ogden added: "All smuggled tobacco poses a serious threat to legitimate manufacturers and retailers. Although some retailers may be tempted by a cheaper product, we urge them not to buy or sell it. Selling illicit tobacco is a criminal offence and you could face severe penalties."

More than 60% of adult smokers would like to see higher fines imposed on retailers who sell illicit products, new TMA survey findings have revealed.