Independent businesses are at risk of being “wiped out” if more action is not taken to tackle the illegal tobacco trade, retailers and manufacturers have warned, after a haul was exposed in one city.

A torrent of illegal and fake tobacco products are being openly sold by some traders and individuals in Southampton, research carried out by local paper the Daily Echo found.

Meten Lakhani, of St Mary’s Supermarket in Southampton, said more needs to be done in terms of enforcement. “Those who get caught receive a fine, and something like a three-month ban, but that’s not enough. They just open up new premises under another name and do the same thing again.”

Steve Wilkins, JTI anti-illegal trade operations director, said JTI’s efforts to stamp out the issue are futile if the government does not “invest in more enforcement”.

“Legitimate businesses are under serious threat from the illegal tobacco trade in the UK,” he said.

A Southampton City Council spokesman said the council has made great headway in recent months to stamp out the problem in the city.

He added where illegal tobacco is sold from off-licences it may seek a review of the alcohol licence.