New research from KPMG has found that the number of black market cigarettes in the UK rose to 6.7billion last year.
According to the report, 16% of all cigarettes smoked in the UK are now either contraband or counterfeit.
Last year, a 6% increase in the volume of illegal cigarettes in the UK led to a second annual rise in the national consumption of illicit cigarettes. KPMG recorded it as the second highest increase in volume in the whole of the EU.
Researchers also found that if the total volume of illegal cigarettes in circulation last year had been consumed legally, HMRC would have raised an additional £2.2bn in tax revenue.
In a recent survey, the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance found that 94% of retailers did not have faith in trading standards to stem the tide of illegal cigarettes.
Tell [trading standards] what impact illicit goods are having on your business, and give them any information that you possibly can about the sources of it – however small it may be
A trading standards officer told Retail Express that he was “surprised and disappointed” by those findings, and that the organisation was taking various measures to clamp down on the illicit trade.
He explained that illicit cigarettes were a concern because of the impact they had on public health, honest businesses and the economy.
“Most of the cheap, illicit cigarettes don’t have the reduced ignition propensity that is required in the UK, which means that they don’t go out if they’re left unsmoked,” he said.
He urged retailers to stay in touch with their local authorities.
“Make sure you’re speaking to your trading standards department,” he said. “Tell them what impact illicit goods are having on your business, and give them any information that you possibly can about the sources of it – however small it may be.”
Paul Adeleke, corporate affairs director at Philip Morris, said the illicit trade was impacting the economy and impacting local communities by fostering criminality.
“Philip Morris International continues to devote significant resources in combating this problem, as we strongly believe that effective solutions require solid cooperation between governments, law enforcement agencies, manufacturers and retailers,” he said.