The blight on law abiding retailers that the illicit tobacco trade represents is well known but the statistics behind are still worth repeating.

Illicit cigarettes account for approximately one in six of those smoked in the UK last year and almost half of rolling tobacco is not legitimate.

The losses to government alone are shocking with the UK government missing on a potential £6million a day in tax revenue.

But what is the situation really like for Retail Newsagent readers who face it, in their communities, every day? We spoke to store owners across the British Isles to find out.

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Name: Ray Monelle

Shop: Orchard News

Location: Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset

“I have definitely seen evidence of the illicit trade of cigarettes within 300 yards of my shop. In this area people are selling smuggled cigarettes rather than counterfeit ones. But my fear is this will change when plain packaging comes in and it is made much easier to produce fake versions of legitimate products.

“We do still sell a lot of cigarettes but the illicit trade is costing me at least £1,000 a week in lost sales. It is hard to do anything to try and increase our sales because we are not allowed to advertise the products we have.

“I actively report any illicit sales I see and so do my customers. But it is in the hands of the people enforcing the law to stop it and I feel they need to up their game.”
john McDowell illicit tobacco

Name: John McDowell

Shop: Mcintyre’s Newsagents

Location: Londonderry, Northern Island

“We are quite lucky around here and I don’t really have too big a problem with illicit tobacco. I’m sure it is different in major cities such as Belfast though.

“While I don’t see anyone selling counterfeit products, I do see people selling smuggled products, normally from ice cream vans.

“I always report people to trading standards if I see illicit products being sold. It tends to be people coming back from mainland Europe and then selling them around the neighbourhood.

“I feel the people investigating it don’t pay enough attention though and are looking at retailers for underage sales rather than the illicit trade.”

nimish, ashar, rainham, gsk, category, advice, soft, drinks, glaxo smith klineName: Nimish Ashar

Shop: Newsmarket

Location: Rainham, Kent

“I think sales of illicit tobacco are quite rife here, of both smuggled and counterfeit products. Increased prices of cigarettes don’t help us – can you really blame people when they are offered products for as little as £3 to £5?

“I have a customer who comes in the shop for other things who no longer buys 50g packs of Amber Leaf from me because, while I sell it for £18.54, he can buy it for £8. My sales have gone down because of this to extent of thousands of pounds.

“People have this rather shocking view that cigarettes will kill you anyway so they don’t care what they buy.

“If people found out I was the one reporting them they may avoid my shop for other products. So I don’t feel it’s worth me doing.”

To see our full feature, including interviews with more retailers, see this week’s Retail Newsagent or subscribe here.