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Research carried out by JTI (Japan Tobacco International) found illicit tobacco to be on sale in 61% of stores test purchased in the Bolton area.

Test purchasers acting on behalf of JTI were able to buy illicit tobacco in 19 out of the 31 stores visited.

Packs of illegal cigarettes were on sale for as little as £4.50 – half the price of the cheapest legal product – while counterfeit 50g packs of RYO could be purchased for as little as £5.00 – around one fifth of the price of the genuine product.

In 2018, JTI ran its first test purchasing operation in Bolton and found that 62% of stores visited (23 out of 37) were selling illicit tobacco.

Additional consumer research conducted for JTI also reveals that a quarter of cigarettes and half of RYO tobacco consumed last year in the North West was not subject to UK taxes, making it one of the regions in England with the highest levels of non‑UK duty paid consumption.

Ian Howell, UK anti-illicit trade manager at JTI, commented: “Selling illegal tobacco damages legitimate business, supports criminal organisations and makes it easier for young people to get hold of tobacco products, and the results from our latest test purchasing shows how entrenched the illegal tobacco trade is in Bolton.

“JTI, along with Trading Standards, who are often supported by HMRC and the Police, is committed to helping tackle the problem of illegal tobacco in the Bolton area. Trading Standard’s ‘Keep It Out’ campaign has continued to play its part, alongside recent enforcement action – including the revocation of premises licenses for two Bolton retailers this summer. Law abiding retailers are at the front line of the fight against illicit tobacco, and therefore we urge any retailer that suspects illegal tobacco is being sold in their area to contact the relevant authorities to help root out these criminals.”

If retailers or the public are aware of anybody selling illicit tobacco, JTI encourages them to report it. This can be done using the ‘report’ feature on www.jtiadvance/DontBeComplicit or by calling the HM Revenue & Customs’ Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887, Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.