Illicit cigarettes now make up 17% of all consumption in the UK, according to a report by KPMG.

The annual KPMG report found that the proportion of illegal counterfeit and contraband cigarettes rose to 17.1% or 5.2bn cigarettes, with counterfeit cigarettes reported to be at a five-year high.

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According to the report, cigarettes brought into the country legally by consumers declined by 66%, with duty free cigarettes declining by 52%, caused directly by border closures and travel disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Philip Morris International (PMI) have continued to send out teams across the UK to gather intelligence, assisting local authorities and law enforcement in their efforts to crack down on illegal trade.

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Cem Uzundal, head of field force sales from Philip Morris Limited (PML – PMI’s UK affiliate), said: “To increase profits, illegal tobacco is produced with cheap materials, and with little regard for health and quality controls. Seized counterfeit cigarettes have even been found to containing mites, insect eggs, fungi and even faeces.

“Illicit products are also completely unnecessary. Smoke-free alternatives are widely available to legal-age smokers, such as heated tobacco products, which are both affordable and less harmful than continued smoking.”

Retailers are warned to continue to check all cigarette stock that they purchase before putting it on sale, local authorities and law enforcements are continuing to crack down on illicit trade of tobacco products with checks on products taking place.

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