The number of people reporting the sale of illicit tobacco has reduced in the last year, according to new findings from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association (TMA).
The nationwide poll surveyed 12,000 smokers in November and December 2022, showing more than seven in ten smokers are still buying illegal products, up from 2% last year.
The number of people reporting the sale of illicit tobacco has also reduced by 3%, down from 32% last year, to 29%.
TMA director, Rupert Lewis said that those surveyed revealed they are “confused” by the number of different ways to report illegal activity.
“This latest survey also underlined those smokers who wish to report illegal tobacco sellers appear to be confused by the proliferation of reporting lines, for example HMRC (0800 788 887), Trading Standards (through the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133), Crimestoppers (0800 555 111) and a number of ‘local’ numbers set up by tobacco control groups.
“It is therefore concerning that the police, despite them not being responsible for enforcement in this area, is now the most commonly contacted authority. The TMA calls for the adoption of a single number for the reporting of illegal tobacco, with the information collated and made available to the most appropriate enforcement body.”
Elsewhere, every UK region saw an increase in the purchase of illicit tobacco in the last year, with the exemption of London (85%), and the east of England (70%). However, despite no change, Londoners represent the highest proportion of people still buying illicit tobacco, while Wales was the only region to see a decline, at 1%.
Lewis added: “The illegal tobacco market is not showing any meaningful signs of decline despite the total number of smokers in the UK consistently falling year-on-year since the 1980s. While the TMA supports the government’s new enforcement measures such as imposing ‘on the spot’ fines of up to £10,000 against those who deal in illicit tobacco, and the recently announced, and soon to be published, new strategy to tackle illicit tobacco – which will see those rogue retailers charged with trading illicit tobacco stripped of their licence to sell legal tobacco products – it doesn’t escape the reality that price point and accessibility remain the twin drivers which underpin the consumption of illicit tobacco.”
The ‘cost of living’ crisis has clearly had a lasting impact on many consumers with nearly four in ten surveyed claiming that increased living costs had impacted their purchasing habits and where they now choose to buy ‘cheaper’ (illicit) tobacco.
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