Nearly 30% of smokers in the UK are buying tobacco from sources other than shops, a major survey has revealed.

The poll of more than 12,000 adult smokers revealed the extent of how consumer behaviour has shifted to ‘non-shop sources’ to avoid paying the high taxation on tobacco products in this country – the highest of all 28 EU member states.

It found that one in five smokers regularly buy tobacco abroad, while many also buy it from friends and family, online, and in pubs, markets and car boot sales. Fifty-one per cent of UK smokers travelling abroad this holiday season said they plan to bring back as much tobacco as they legally can.

The survey, which was carried out by Mitchla Marketing/Survey Sampling International, is one of the largest of its kind. It received input from law enforcement officials and surveyed smokers nationwide.

Giles Roca, director general of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association said the survey is clear proof that the Government’s high tax tobacco policy is not working. “This survey shows that excessive taxation on tobacco products is forcing up prices and driving consumers away from legitimate sources,” he said. “This aids organised criminals while losing the Treasury billions in potential revenue each year.”

He called for the Government to urgently review its high tobacco tax policy.