NEW figures have revealed that 28 per cent of smokers in East Staffordshire buy illegal cigarettes.
A major new survey showed that people in the area buy their tobacco regularly from “non-shop” sources such as pubs, car boot sales and market stalls, who offer much lower prices than high street shops.
The survey by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which received input from HM Revenue & Customs, also found that 27 per cent of smokers are aware of illegal, smuggled and counterfeit tobacco being sold in their area, with prices typically less than £4 per pack of 20.
This comes after a series of raids across Burton during the past 12 months which have seen thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco seized.
Mike Goodall, regional manager of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), said: “These results highlight the volume and widespread availability of illegal tobacco, which is causing untold damage to legitimate retail businesses.
“The economy is improving, but living standards have yet to catch up, therefore smokers are continuing to buy tobacco from outside the legal supply chain.”
A spokesman for trading standards in Staffordshire said: “Counterfeiting is the very opposite of fair competition, where manufacturers compete with each other on the basis of quality and price.
“The counterfeiter sets out to make money by deception, deliberately assuming the identity of an already reputable manufacturer.
“This means that counterfeiters avoid both the costs incurred and the taxes payable by legitimate companies. Counterfeiters also pay no VAT.”
Anyone with information about counterfeit goods can call Staffordshire trading standards officials on 01785 330356, or online staffordshire.gov.uk/